Thursday, September 14, 2006
What do YOU think of the Millennium Temple?
I am currently ruminating about the various attempts by sympathizers of Dispensationalism to steer a “safe” course through the minefield of a literal Millennial Temple. In view of this newly acquired (or rather, required) pet topic - which might bog me down for another week or two - I might as well post a teaser on this issue of concern.
I am curious to know how fellow brethren, both Dispensational and Non-dispensational, reconcile the animal sacrifices reiterated in Ezekiel 40-48 with a literal, historical-grammatical hermeneutics. After going through numerous papers written by Dispensationalists, plus an article written by Dr Prabhudas Koshy of Far Eastern Bible College (who is also my previous pastor!), I will try to classify these “commando” exegeses into the following broad categories:
The Various Views on the Ezekielian Sacrifices
1. Memorial view: Animal sacrifices have no expiatory value, and are offered in the Millennium to commemorate Christ’s death.
2. Whitcomb’s view: Animal sacrifices are offered for ceremonial “cleasing,” and in this sense, do have expiatory value.
3. No literal animal sacrifices. Despite their “consistently literal hermeneutics,” some Dispensationalists actually understand that these sacrifices will not be restituted in the Millennium.
I chanced upon Randall Price’s article “An Overview of the Future Temples” today, which contains a fairly accurate summary of the Dispensationalist’s position. Rapture-ready Randall Price wrote:
“The Millennial Temple will be built by Christ (Zech. 6:12-13), redeemed Jews (Ezek. 43:10-11), and representatives from the Gentile nations (Zech. 6:15; Hag. 2:7; cf. Is. 60:10) at the beginning of the Messianic kingdom (Ezek. 37:26-28). As a sign of the restoration of theocratic rule the Shekinah Glory will return to its Holy of Holies (Ezek. 43:1-7; cf. Is. 4:5-6). . . . [A] feature of Ezekiel's Temple that indicates its literal interpretation is the ceremonial system including blood sacrifices. This is in keeping with other prophetic predictions where the Temple includes a priesthood and sacrifices (Is. 56:6-7; 60:7; Jer. 33:18; Zech. 14:16-21). The function of these sacrifices may be memorial in nature, just as the Lord's Supper is today (1 Cor. 11:24-26), however, the fact that they are said to be for "atonement" may also indicate the need for a ritual purification. This would be necessary, as in the past (Heb. 9:13), for those saints living in mortal bodies throughout the Millennium and seeking approach to the Temple since God's holy presence will be resident there (Jer. 3:17; Zech. 14:20-21).”
According to Price, “the function of these sacrifices may be memorial in nature.” But again, he seems not to be able to make up his mind on this issue, and added ambiguously that “the need for a ritual purification” and atonement might become necessary in the Millennium. Do we suppose that, after the substitutionary death of Christ our Passover Lamb, animal sacrifices might again be needed to “purify” and ceremonially “cleanse” the worshipper in the millennial temple? If, indeed, legal, ceremonial cleansing is required in the Millennium to approach God, why is there no necessity today for this “ceremonial,” temporal cleansing?
Do read up Dr Koshy’s article “The Millennial Temple” in The Burning Bush, Volume 6 Number 1 (January 2000). Dr Koshy is, according to the college’s Statement of Faith, a Reformed theologian adhering to the Reformed doctrine of the atonement. It is interesting to note that Koshy and Price embrace essentially the same view on the Ezekielian sacrifices.
There are some questions we might want to ask ourselves when pondering upon this “mammalian, sacrificial” issue:
1. Firstly, what should be our hermeneutical approach when studying the visions of Ezekiel?
2. What should be our interpretational grid when seeking to understand Ezekiel, especially in employing the principle of progressive revelation, that is, the interpretation of the Old Testament with New Testament Revelation (and not vice versa)?
3. What does Leviticus teach with regard to bloody sacrifices? What are the etymological implications regarding the Hebrew word for “atonement,” especially when applied to the Book of Ezekiel?
4. Can a Reformed theologian consistently adhere to such distinctives of Dispensational Premillennialism - i.e. the temple, the sacrifices, the priesthood, the rite of circumcision and the restitution of Jewish Feasts and Festivals in the millennium – and remain distinctively Reformed?
5. Last but not least, here is the most important question of all, “What does it mean to be Reformed?” Does it mean a mere adherence to the five points of Calvinism, or is there more to the theological label? (Hint: I believe that the Reformed faith is more than a mere adherence to the 5 points!)
Finally, let me refresh our memories with regard to my previous statement in paragraph two, “I am curious to know how fellow brethren, both Dispensational and Reformed, reconcile the animal sacrifices reiterated in Ezekiel 40-48 with a literal, historical-grammatical hermeneutics.” Therefore, if you see me, bump into me, or when you remember to drop me a note, do let me know what you think.
How do you, as a child of God, understand the visions of Ezekiel in chapters 40 to 48?
That will be all for now, after a very busy week of research and writing. Thanks for dropping by.