The Coming of the Gentiles and the Final Hour (Jn 12:23)

John 12:20-23

῏Ησαν δὲ Ἕλληνές τινες ἐκ τῶν ἀναβαινόντων ἵνα προσκυνήσωσιν ἐν τῇ ἑορτῇ· οὗτοι οὖν προσῆλθον Φιλίππῳ τῷ ἀπὸ Βηθσαϊδὰ τῆς Γαλιλαίας καὶ ἠρώτων αὐτὸν λέγοντες· κύριε, θέλομεν τὸν Ἰησοῦν ἰδεῖν. ἔρχεται ὁ Φίλιππος καὶ λέγει τῷ Ἀνδρέᾳ, ἔρχεται Ἀνδρέας καὶ Φίλιππος καὶ λέγουσιν τῷ Ἰησοῦ. ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς ἀποκρίνεται αὐτοῖς λέγων· ἐλήλυθεν ἡ ὥρα ἵνα δοξασθῇ ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου.

 
I have always been fascinated with the above account in John’s Gospel. Greek God-fearers who were coming to Jerusalem were seeking to see Jesus (θέλομεν τὸν Ἰησοῦν ἰδεῖν). The request of the Greek worshippers prompts Jesus to declare ἐλήλυθεν ἡ ὥρα ἵνα δοξασθῇ ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου. Prior to this, the references to hour as the refer to Jesus in John’s Gospel speak of a future hour, i.e. Jesus’ death. (2:24; 4:21; 5:25, 28; 7:30; 8:20). After this the references change. For example: ὁ Ἰησοῦς ὅτι ἦλθεν αὐτοῦ ἡ ὥρα…” (13:1); “ἰδοὺ ἔρχεται ὥρα καὶ ἐλήλυθεν…” (16:32); “πάτερ, ἐλήλυθεν ἡ ὥρα…” (17:1).

Why the sudden change? It is the coming of the Gentiles that ushers in the hour of Jesus death. As Carson notes, :the approach of the Greeks is for Jesus a kind of trigger, a signal that the climactic hour has dawned (PNTC, 437). From this point forward in John’s Gospel, the focus shifts to Jesus’ final few days, and he begins to prepare his disciples for life without him by their side. Some pretty amazing things going on here.

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The Christ Hymn

One of my favorite sections of Scripture is Philippians 2:5-11. In this passage Paul paints for us a beautiful picture of humility and self-denial in the person of Christ. All to often I read this hymn and I am immediately struck by how I fail to model such humility. Whereas Christ climbs down the latter of success and praise from others, I seem to want to climb as high as I can up that very latter. When you examine the text, you get a picture of just how far down the latter Christ goes.

5 τοῦτο φρονεῖτε ἐν ὑμῖν ὃ καὶ ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ, 6 ὃς ἐν μορφῇ θεοῦ ὑπάρχων οὐχ ἁρπαγμὸν ἡγήσατο τὸ εἶναι ἴσα θεῷ, 7 ἀλλὰ ἑαυτὸν ἐκένωσεν μορφὴν δούλου λαβών, ἐν ὁμοιώματι ἀνθρώπων γενόμενος· καὶ σχήματι εὑρεθεὶς ὡς ἄνθρωπος 8 ἐταπείνωσεν ἑαυτὸν γενόμενος ὑπήκοος μέχρι θανάτου, θανάτου δὲ σταυροῦ. 9 διὸ καὶ ὁ θεὸς αὐτὸν ὑπερύψωσεν καὶ ἐχαρίσατο αὐτῷ τὸ ὄνομα τὸ ὑπὲρ πᾶν ὄνομα, 10 ἵνα ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι Ἰησοῦ πᾶν γόνυ κάμψῃ ἐπουρανίων καὶ ἐπιγείων καὶ καταχθονίων 11 καὶ πᾶσα γλῶσσα ἐξομολογήσηται ὅτι κύριος Ἰησοῦς Χριστὸς εἰς δόξαν θεοῦ πατρός (Phil 2:5-11).

Paul frames his hymn with a command in v.5: τοῦτο φρονεῖτε ἐν ὑμῖν ὃ καὶ ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ (Have this way of thinking among yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus). The demonstrative τοῦτο functions in both a backward as well as forward pointing manner, reminding the reader of what was previously said and also preparing the reader for what follows. Already Paul has exhorted the Philippians to act in a way which cares more for the concerns of others rather than themselves. But in case the Philippians do not know how this looks, Paul gives them the ultimate example of humility, Christ Jesus.

While much has been said in regards to Phil 2.6-11 and the deity of Christ, I tend to think that this is not the main focus of Paul’s argument. While he does in fact make mention of Christ’s deity, ὃς ἐν μορφῇ θεοῦ ὑπάρχων (Although he existed in the form of God…), it is in passing and assumed. It is hard to believe that in light of the command in v.5 Paul would focus on Christ’s deity as their motivation to think in a particular manner. The reader may ask himself, How can anyone attempt to even try to have the mindset of Christ since he is God? Rather, Paul focuses on the humanity of Christ.

What exactly was the attitude(s) that Paul says was characteristic of Jesus?

  1. He did not grasp for what was rightfully his (οὐχ ἁρπαγμὸν ἡγήσατο τὸ εἶναι ἴσα θεῷ). Although he was God, he did not concern himself with the privileges, honor, or status that came with the title God. In an honor and shame culture like the one we find in Phillipi, the pursuit of glory and honor meant everything. But Jesus did not climb that latter.
  2. Instead, he emptied himself of this pursuit by taking the form of a slave (ἀλλὰ ἑαυτὸν ἐκένωσεν μορφὴν δούλου λαβών, ἐν ὁμοιώματι ἀνθρώπων γενόμενος·). Right here we see the irony of this in full effect. Christ, who is God, refuses to cling to his title, and instead goes the other way and takes on the status of a slave. The Master becomes the slave.
  3. The climb down the latter of success ends with three nails and a cross (ἐταπείνωσεν ἑαυτὸν γενόμενος ὑπήκοος μέχρι θανάτου, θανάτου δὲ σταυροῦ). The Lord of glory willing submits to the most shameful death imaginable. In first-century Palestine there was no more shameful way of dying. Not only is the physical pain unbearable, but while you are hanging there in pain you are also suffering the pain of shame, mockery, and rejection.

Thankfully the hymn does not end there. God does not leave Christ with the shame of the cross to bear. Instead, he exalts him higher than he previously was and gives him a name more glorious than any name (διὸ καὶ ὁ θεὸς αὐτὸν ὑπερύψωσεν καὶ ἐχαρίσατο αὐτῷ τὸ ὄνομα τὸ ὑπὲρ πᾶν ὄνομα). And it is at this name, Jesus, that every knee will bow and tongue confess Jesus is Lord (ἵνα ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι Ἰησοῦ πᾶν γόνυ κάμψῃ ἐπουρανίων καὶ ἐπιγείων καὶ καταχθονίων καὶ πᾶσα γλῶσσα ἐξομολογήσηται ὅτι κύριος Ἰησοῦς Χριστὸς εἰς δόξαν θεοῦ πατρός).

In a culture saturated in honor and the drive for success, Paul turns the whole thing upside down and gives us a picture of what true humility looks like. Instead of seeking honor and praise from man, seek rather how you can serve others in a manner that may lead to your death. But do not worry, God will reward you in heaven.

In closing I am reminded of the words of the Master: “He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.”

From Eden to the New Jerusalem-A Review

Alexander, T. Desmond.

From Eden to the New Jerusalem: An Introduction to Biblical Theology

Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic, 2008.

Reviewed by: C. B. Kvidahl

Amazon |

 

T. Desmond Alexander’s From Eden to the New Jerusalem is a wealth of information packed into only 192 pages. Alexander begins his study by looking to Revelation 21-22 as a window back into the garden of Eden. As the subtitle states, this is an introduction into the discipline of Biblical Theology. But it is so much more than just an introduction. Alexander traces some of the key themes that begin in Gen 3 and come to their full consummation in Rev 21-22. Alexander does not seek to provide an exhaustive study of key themes, rather he focuses on the forest more so than the individual trees. But do not expect this to be a super sonic fly over; it is rather a slow fly over, allowing the reader to the forest and admire the view.

In each of the eight chapters in the book, Alexander traces the story from creation to new-creation, highlighting certain motifs as the Eden as a temple-garden, the tabernacle, humanity as God’s viceroys, the great serpent, Passover and the Lamb, the tree of life, and New Jerusalem and Babylon. Alexander engages the reader from start to finish, showing how these themes tie together.

In chapter two, the author shows how the garden of Eden was more than just a place to see pretty plants. From the beginning, God has his dwelling with mankind. He creates a world and places Adam and Eve in the garden in order to tend and take care of his creation. Not only this, but we note that God would often walk with man in the garden. Further, Alexander notes some similarities that Eden shares with the later tabernacle/temple:

  • Eden and the later tabernacle/temple were entered from the east, with cherubim guarding the entrance.
  • The tree of life is later represented in the tabernacle/temple by the menorah.
  • The same Hebrew words for “to serve, till” and “to keep, observe, guard” are used only in relation to Adam and Eve and later the priests who serve in the tabernacle/temple.
  • The gemstone spoken of in Gen 2 (gold and onyx) were later used in the tabernacle/temple to decorate the sanctuary and the priestly garments.
  • The presence of the Lord is in both Eden (God walks with Adam and Eve) and the tabernacle/temple.

Alexander traces the tabernacle/temple motif through the Exodus of Israel, Temple in Jerusalem, Jesus, the Church, and finally the New Jerusalem of Rev 21-22. Through the development of Israel as God’s people, and later the Church, Alexander shows the reader how this Temple motif is central and important. Whereas before the fall mankind had full access to and fellowship with God, since then God has been in the business of restoring mankind’s access to God.

Another theme which Alexander traces is the idea of humanity of God’s viceroys. When God created mankind, he created them with intent that the populate the earth and spread God’s presence throughout his creation. He gave Adam and Eve dominion over the animals and commanded them to multiply. But when the serpent entered into the garden and deceived Adam and Eve, they transferred their allegiance from God to Satan, thus allowing Satan to gain a foothold in God’s creation. As Alexander states, “by betraying God and obeying the serpent, the royal couple dethrone God.” This betrayal cost the couple their priestly status, and God banished them from the garden and from his presence. The remainder of the story is God orchestrating in such a way as to re-establish his kingdom on earth. When Jesus comes proclaiming that the kingdom of heaven is at hand, he ushers in God’s kingdom and his victory over the rule and dominion of the great serpent Satan. Through the death, resurrection, and ascension of the Messiah, the Church now has keys to the kingdom. At the death of Christ, Satan is bound and the gospel is spread throughout the earth. Although the Church now currently lives in the tension of the already-but-not-yet, we eagerly await the coming of the New Jerusalem and our Messiah.

The only criticism I have with this excellent study is that chapter seven seemed to drag on a bit. While I see its necessity in a study like this, I just felt like the momentum which was gained in the first six chapters seemed to slow a bit towards the end. Nevertheless, I would recommend From Eden to the New Jerusalem to the reader looking for a book that shows the reader how to not only understand the discipline of Biblical Theology, but to also see how it is done first hand.

 

Quote of the Day

On healings and exorcisms in our world today, T. Desmond Alexander writes:

…It is possible for Jesus’ followers also to experience in the present something of the eschatological age in terms of healings and exorcisms. However, this will always be less than what awaits us. God may heal, here and now, but not on every occasion. There may be occasions, here and now, when evil powers are defeated, but not always. This should not surprise us. The present evil age will eventually give way to the next. If we all received from God complete holiness and wholeness now, there would be no need for the new earth. As it is, however, we live on an earth presently controlled by the evil one. Only when Satan is finally defeated shall we know life as God intended it (From Eden to the New Jerusalem,155: emphasis added).

Presently we find ourselves living in the tension of the already-but-not-yet. We are now experiencing the kingdom of God as believers, but the kingdom awaits its full consummation. We await the return of the king of kings, who will bring with him the new heavens and new earth we long for. But as Alexander states, right now we only “have a glimpse of what the coming age will be like.”

Thoughts on Scripture: Jesus Before Pilate and Herod (Luke 23)

I was reading this afternoon the account of Jesus before both Pilate and Herod in Luke’s gospel (Lk 23.1-25). What caught my attention as I was reading was the two different responses these men had while Jesus was standing in their presence. One, Pilate, responded in a political manner. He was far more concerned with keeping the peace-and his job-than he was with justice. Because he feared that the Jewish leaders and their followers would riot if they did not receive the judicial outcome they so lusted after, he gave into their blood-thirst and had Jesus traded for (ironically) a man guilty of insurrection and murder. Jesus was to be crucified all because Pilate did not have the spine to stand up to a people under his own authority.

On the other hand, Herod was far more interested in the miracle worker that he heard so much about. He cared far less for the accusations and charges that were levied against Jesus. All he wanted was for Jesus to put on a show and entertain him. So when Jesus refused to entertain Herod’s childish request, Herod had him humiliated and mocked and sent back to Pilate to face his accusers one last time.

The responses by Herod and Pilate to Jesus is no different then as it is today. Many people refuse to submit to the sovereignty of Christ because he threatens their way of life. To turn to Christ is to turn from the accolades of this world. Others, instead of turning from Christ turn to him for a religious high or religious experience. One has to look no further than the television to see men supposedly casting out demons and healing people’s headaches or whatnot. These people will follow Jesus when they feel a religious high or experience. But the instant things go south, and life begins to bring trials into their lives they are gone like the wind.

The true followers of Christ follow him to the cross. They cling to him when things are good and when life is a living hell on earth. They know that they have left everything to follow Jesus, and they will follow him to death if necessary. So I ask myself: What kind of follower am I?

Lord, grant us this day to turn our eyes from the pleasures of this world and to turn our eyes and hearts to the beauty of your cross. Amen

Exegetical Sandbox: Thoughts on the Temple

I have been reading a very informative and intriguing book by T. Desmond Alexander entitled From Eden to the New Jerusalem: An Introduction to Biblical Theology. The main premise of his book is tracing The Temple motif from Gen 1-2 all the way through Rev 21-22. Although I am not unfamiliar with this line of exegetical thought (I have read a similar argument in Beale’s monumental work on The Temple and the Church’s Mission), Alexander nevertheless affirms in my mind that he is on target. While I hope to give a review of Alexander’s book in the coming weeks, this is not the point of my post.

While reading through some of Alexander’s book, I began to think of the implications it would have on my own reading of Scripture. I have long been intrigued by the church being called the temple:

  1. Οὐκ οἴδατε ὅτι ναὸς θεοῦ ἐστε καὶ τὸ πνεῦμα τοῦ θεοῦ οἰκεῖ ἐν ὑμῖν; εἴ τις τὸν ναὸν τοῦ θεοῦ φθείρει, φθερεῖ τοῦτον ὁ θεός· ὁ γὰρ ναὸς τοῦ θεοῦ ἅγιός ἐστιν, οἵτινές ἐστε ὑμεῖς. (1 Cor 3.16-17)
  2. ἢ οὐκ οἴδατε ὅτι τὸ σῶμα ὑμῶν ναὸς τοῦ ἐν ὑμῖν ἁγίου πνεύματός ἐστιν οὗ ἔχετε ἀπὸ θεοῦ, καὶ οὐκ ἐστὲ ἑαυτῶν; (1 Cor 6.19)
  3. τίς δὲ συγκατάθεσις ναῷ θεοῦ μετὰ εἰδώλων; ἡμεῖς γὰρ ναὸς θεοῦ ἐσμεν ζῶντος, καθὼς εἶπεν ὁ θεὸς ὅτι ἐνοικήσω ἐν αὐτοῖς καὶ ἐμπεριπατήσωκαὶ ἔσομαι αὐτῶν θεὸς καὶ αὐτοὶ ἔσονταί μου λαός (2 Cor 6.16)
  4. ἐν ᾧ πᾶσα οἰκοδομὴ συναρμολογουμένη αὔξει εἰς ναὸν ἅγιον ἐν κυρίῳ (Eph 2.21)
  5. πρὸς ὃν προσερχόμενοι λίθον ζῶντα ὑπὸ ἀνθρώπων μὲν ἀποδεδοκιμασμένον παρὰ δὲ θεῷ ἐκλεκτὸν ἔντιμον, 5 καὶ αὐτοὶ ὡς λίθοι ζῶντες οἰκοδομεῖσθε οἶκος πνευματικὸς εἰς ἱεράτευμα ἅγιον ἀνενέγκαι πνευματικὰς θυσίας εὐπροσδέκτους [τῷ] θεῷ διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ. 6 διότι περιέχει ἐν γραφῇ· ἰδοὺ τίθημι ἐν Σιὼν λίθον ἀκρογωνιαῖον ἐκλεκτὸν ἔντιμον καὶ ὁ πιστεύων ἐπʼ αὐτῷ οὐ μὴ καταισχυνθῇ. 7 ὑμῖν οὖν ἡ τιμὴ τοῖς πιστεύουσιν, ἀπιστοῦσιν δὲ λίθος ὃν ἀπεδοκίμασαν οἱ οἰκοδομοῦντες, οὗτος ἐγενήθη εἰς κεφαλὴν γωνίας 8 καὶ λίθος προσκόμματος καὶ πέτρα σκανδάλου· οἳ προσκόπτουσιν τῷ λόγῳ ἀπειθοῦντες εἰς ὃ καὶ ἐτέθησαν. 9 ὑμεῖς δὲ γένος ἐκλεκτόν, βασίλειον ἱεράτευμα, ἔθνος ἅγιον, λαὸς εἰς περιποίησιν, ὅπως τὰς ἀρετὰς ἐξαγγείλητε τοῦ ἐκ σκότους ὑμᾶς καλέσαντος εἰς τὸ θαυμαστὸν αὐτοῦ φῶς· 10 οἵ ποτε οὐ λαὸς νῦν δὲ λαὸς θεοῦ, οἱ οὐκ ἠλεημένοι νῦν δὲ ἐλεηθέντες (1 Pet 2.4-10. Although the word temple does not occur, it is safe to assume that it is alluded to in 2.5: οἶκος πνευματικὸς).

So what is the point of all of this? Well, I for one was raised in a tradition that taught that the temple will again be rebuilt in Jerusalem during the promised “millennial reign” of Christ. But the more I read the Scriptures, the more I am convinced that this is not the case. For example, The OT describes God as dwelling among his people, primarily in the holy of holies in the tabernacle and then the temple. But there is a significant change in the NT. Now, as 1 Cor 3.16 indicates, τὸ πνεῦμα τοῦ θεοῦ οἰκεῖ ἐν ὑμῖν (the spirit of God lives in you). If the Jerusalem temple is to be rebuilt, then will the Spirit of God no longer dwell in us, but rather return to the the function of dwelling among us? In my understanding, the best illustration of this is Christ himself. In the person of Christ the fullness of the God dwells: ὅτι ἐν αὐτῷ κατοικεῖ πᾶν τὸ πλήρωμα τῆς θεότητος σωματικῶς (Col 2.9). Also, the play on words in John’s Gospel is more than just a coincidence, for in his incarnation Jesus has tabernacled among men: Καὶ ὁ λόγος σὰρξ ἐγένετο καὶ ἐσκήνωσεν ἐν ἡμῖν, καὶ ἐθεασάμεθα τὴν δόξαν αὐτοῦ, δόξαν ὡς μονογενοῦς παρὰ πατρός, πλήρης χάριτος καὶ ἀληθείας (John 1.14).

I am sure more can be said. But these are just some of my musings on this topic, topics of which I hope to develop more in the future. But for now I leave you with these thoughts.

A Word from Paul

…Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ τοῦ δόντος ἑαυτὸν ὑπὲρ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ἡμῶν, ὅπως ἐξέληται ἡμᾶς ἐκ τοῦ αἰῶνος τοῦ ἐνεστῶτος πονηροῦ κατὰ τὸ θέλημα τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ πατρὸς ἡμῶν, ᾧ ἡ δόξα εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων, ἀμήν (Gal 1.3b-5).

When you sit and think about, for Christ to give his life for sinners like us is the most amazing thing we mortals will ever see.