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Been thinking about the work of Dr Walton and N.T Wright lately. Genesis had been on my mind, and how to interpret it. Without getting into the debate itself, there are some fascinating insights to be drawn from the narrative of the text. Interesting too that what begins in Genesis is either alluded to, concluded or enhanced in Revelation. Genesis 1-2 is a temple story. God builds a Temple (creation) for Himself and then “rests” in it. Because that is where a god resides. This is not a rest as in tiredness. Nor is it a rest as in ceasing activity. “In his defense Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working (John 15:17-18).” It is the ceasing of creation, so that the real purpose of ruling can now begin. So then the creation is the temple “This is what the LORD says: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Where is the house you will build for me? Where will my resting place be? (Isaiah 66:1).”
What’s the last thing then that you set up in a Temple? The image of the God. “Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground (Genesis 1:26).”
This living image is supposed to bring Glory to God and tend to the Temple/Creation. Who serves in a Temple? Priests. Who rules? Nobility. Adam and Eve were Priest-Kings. “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor. You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet (Psalm 8:3-6).” As priests and kings they mediated the power and grace of God to all creation.
When they fell and started serving itself rather than the Creator, the temple started falling apart too. It distorted the image of it’s God and no longer mirrored Him. Until Christ himself took on the nature of Man, and being the very image of God, restored the fallen images to their likeness. And has restarted the job of tending and keeping the Creation. He finished the job they failed to do. And is continually working it through us. That is why in Hebrews the role of Christ as eternal High Priest is so important. Since he eternally mediates the grace of God and immortality to all, we are rescued from death and ultimately annihilation “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he deliversthe kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. (1 Corinthians 15:20-24).” All are raised from the dead and rescued by Christ’s death and resurrection. So that the humanity (human nature) of all are rescued. However not all choose to personally conform to the likeness of Jesus Christ personally (Romans 8:29). And thus when the consuming fire of God’s glory fills creation, it will be joy to the saints, but pain to those who weren’t prepared. We were made to enjoy the very life of the Trinity themselves, entering into their personal relationship. This means however being transformed and become like them in order to enjoy that quality of life. And just like iron in hot fire can take on the properties of the fire as participator and not originator (heat and light) while in essence remaining iron. So too we become like God in his Glory/Divine Energies, while not partaking of his essence and thus remaining creatures with our creaturely essences.
It is important too to remember that Christ’s rulership and dominon which Adam lost isn’t far off in the future. It’s all ready begun. “But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you (Matthew 12:28). That is why Hebrews chapter 2, after quoting the Psalm above says “In putting everything under them, God left nothing that is not subject to them. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to them. But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone (Hebrews 2:8-9).” Christ isn’t going to rule when he returns. He is ruling even as we speak (Matthew 8:28). That’s what the coming on the clouds of heaven to rule was about. It’s not when he returns, but when he ascended into heaven “I kept looking in the night visions, And behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, And He came up to the Ancient of Days And was presented before Him. “And to Him was given dominion, Glory and a kingdom, That all the peoples, nations and men of every language Might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion Which will not pass away; And His kingdom is one Which will not be destroyed (Daniel 8:13-14).”
But it’s a Kingdom with progressive growth. Consider the imagery that Christ uses to describe it; a mustard seed that grows into a big tree. Yeast that eventually permeates the dough. “While you were watching, a rock was cut out, but not by human hands. It struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and smashed them. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were all broken to pieces and became like chaff on a threshing floor in the summer. The wind swept them away without leaving a trace. But the rock that struck the statue became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth… In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever. This is the meaning of the vision of the rock cut out of a mountain, but not by human hands—a rock that broke the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the gold to pieces (Daniel 2:34-35, 44-45).
And we are called to rule with Him even now as he works through us. That is why it says of us “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light (1 Peter 2:9).” In heaven too the Saints rule with Christ (Daniel 7:9-10, Revelation 20:4).”
However in the end, it says “I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple (Revelation 21:22). Is this to mean there is no longer a creation? No, rather God completely deifies the image of Himself, humanity, to his likeness, by the glorification of Christ who took on humanity. As N.T Wright says “Christ is the the truly human one.” And through Christ, humanity once again becomes the means by which God’s glory is mediated to all creation and the Nature is glorified alongside humanity. Such that everywhere becomes the dwelling place of God’s presence and power (often called his right hand) “in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11).
“I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb (Revelation 21:22-23).”
“For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God (Romans 8:19-21).”
What does this say about the nature of the atonement? What does this say about eschatology? A sacramental view of reality? Our stewardship of the creation? How we should view our lives or think about our work on earth? Should we be careful in compartmentalizing our lives as spiritual stuff vs everything else? The relationship between image and what’s being imaged and thus the distinction if any between veneration and worship?
For a great pieces on Christus Victor read: The Cross is the Incarnation and Could God save us from Annihilation without the Incarnation?
Here are two videos I find very helpful. Doesn’t mean I necessarily endorse everything there. But there is much to take into account.