Beale: Future Animal Sacrifices in Ezekiel ?

“The notorious problem of what to make of the sacrifices in Ezekiel’s temple may be solved by seeing them beginning fulfilment in Christians who offer themselves to God by suffering for their faith…

Implicitly, Christ’s great sacrifice is the ultimate fulfillment of Ezekiel’s temple vision, since Revelation 11 portrays the career of the church according to the outline of Christ’s career. Hence, it is not incorrect to say that Ezekiel speaks in the language and images familiar to his audience in portraying sacrifices in a temple to prophesy about the escalated redemptive-historical realities of Christ’s sacrifice and the church’s imitation of that sacrifice. Both of these ‘sacrifices’ of the new epoch are linked exegetically by allusions to the Ezekiel temple in Revelation 11:1-2 and the Lamb of 21:22.

Those who see a literal temple structure as the fulfillment of Ezekiel’s prophecy usually interpret the sacrifices there to be ‘memorial sacrifices’ that commemorate Christ’s death. In response, numerous commentators have pointed out that this would violate the principle of Hebrews: the Old Testament sacrifices pointed to Christ’s ‘once for all’ sacrifice (Heb. 9:12, 26, 28; 10:10-18), so that to go back to those sacrifices would indicate the insufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice for sin (cf., e.g., Heb. 10:18: ‘Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin’). This would appears to amount to a reversal of redemptive history and, more importantly, a denial of the efficacy of Christ’s sacrifice.

The Scofield Bible, espousing the standard literalist dispensational approach, gives a surprising response to what appears to be a vexing problem for those arguing for the future revival of the sacrificial system. In addition to saying that the sacrifices might be memorials Scofield also offers the following possibility: “The reference to sacrifices [in Ezekiel’s temple prophecy] is not to be taken literally, in view of the putting away of such offerings [according to Hebrews], but is rather to be regarded as a presentation of the worship of redeemed Israel, in her own land and in the millennial temple, using the terms with which the Jews were familiar in Ezekiel’s day’ (C. I. Scofield, The New Scofield Reference Bible, 1967, 888).

More than one commentator has recognized the inconsistency in this quotation from the Scofield Bible: ‘These words convey a far-reaching concession on the part of dispensationalists. If the sacrifices are not to be taken literally, why should we take the temple literally? It would seem that the dispensational principle of the literal interpretation of Old Testament prophecy is here abandoned, and that a crucial foundation stone for the entire dispensationalist system has been set aside!’ (Anthony Hoekema, The Bible and the Future, 1979, 204).

Therefore, make the sacrifices symbolic and the temple becomes symbolic too (H. L. Ellison, Ezekiel: The Man and His Mission, 1956, 140). Even to entertain the possibility that the sacrifices are memorials contravenes a literal interpretation of prophecy because of the Hebrew word that Ezekiel uses to explain the purpose of the sacrifices: ‘to make atonement’ (45:15, 17, 20). The verb is kipper (in the Piel verb form), which is the exact word (and verb form) employed in the Pentateuch to describe sacrifices that have an atoning purpose (Lev. 6:30 [23]; 8:15; 16:6, 11, 24, 30, 32, 33, 34; Num. 5:8; 15:28; 29:5) (following Hoekema 1979, 204). Of course, the atoning purpose in the Old Testament accomplished only a temporary ‘covering’ (which is the meaning of kipper) of Israel’s sin, which pointed typologically to Christ’s ‘once for all atonement’. The point is that Ezekiel does not call these sacrifices ‘memorials’, but puts them on a par with the Levitical typological sacrifices of atonement. 

From a New Testament perspective, the Lord’s Supper is the only memorial instituted by Christ to ‘memorialize’ his redemptive work. To suggest that this memorial will cease in a coming millennium, to be replaced by the ‘old’ Old Testament sacrifices, not only is at variance with the book of Hebrews, but abrogates Christ’s command to remember him in the Lord’s Supper (Ellison 1956, 142). This in light of the evidence, it does not seem likely that Ezekiel’s sacrifices will be literally fulfilled in a future temple.”

-G. K. Beale, The Temple and the Church’s Mission: A Biblical Theology of the Dwelling Place of God, 2004, 343-345.

Hoekema: New Earth?

“If God would have to annihilate the present cosmos, Satan would have won a great victory. For then Satan would have succeeded in so devastatingly corrupting the present cosmos and the present earth that God could do nothing with it but to blot it totally out of existence. But Satan has been decisively defeated. God will reveal the full dimensions of that defeat when he shall renew this very earth on which Satan deceived mankind and finally banish from it all the results of Satan’s evil machinations.”

-Anthony Hoekema, The Bible and the Future, 281.

Hoekema: What Does Spiritual Body Mean?

“One of the difficulties [in 1 Corinthians 15:44] is that the expression “a spiritual body” has led many to think that the resurrection body will be a nonphysical one—spiritual is then thought to be in contrast with physical.

That this is not so can be easily shown. The resurrection body of the believer, we have seen, will be like the resurrection body of Christ (cf. 1 Cor. 15:48, 49). But Christ’s resurrection body was certainly a physical one; he could be touched (John 20:17, 27) and he could eat food (Luke 24:38-43). Further, the spiritual…does not describe that which is nonmaterial or nonphysical.

Note how Paul uses the same contrast in the same epistle, chapter 2:14-15: “Now the natural…man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him; and he cannot know them, because they are spiritually judged. But he that is spiritual…judgeth all things, and he himself is judged of no man” (ASV).

Here the same two Greek words…are used
as in 15:44. But spiritual…here does not mean nonphysical. Rather, it means someone who is guided by the Holy Spirit, at least in principle, in distinction from someone who is guided only by his natural impulses. In similar fashion, the natural body described in 15:44 is one which is part of this present, sin-cursed existence; but the spiritual body of the resurrection is one which will be totally, not just partially, dominated and directed by the Holy Spirit.

Our future existence…will be an existence completely and totally ruled by the Holy Spirit, so that we shall be forever done with sin. Therefore the body of the resurrection is called a spiritual body, Geerhardus Vos is correct when he insists that we ought to capitalize the word spiritual in this verse, so as to make clear that the verse describes the state in which the Holy Spirit rules the body.”

-Anthony Hoekema, The Bible and the Future, 249-250.

God’s Image – Lost and Restored

“When man was created, he possessed the image of God in the structural and broader sense, and at the same time imaged God properly in the functional or narrower sense, since he lived in perfect obedience to God. After man had fallen into sin, however, he retained the image of God in the structural or broader sense but lost it in the functional or narrower sense.

That is to say, fallen human beings still possess the gifts and capacities with which God has endowed them, but they now use these gifts in sinful and disobedient ways. In the process of redemption God by his Spirit renews the image in fallen human beings–that is, enables them once again to use their God-reflecting gifts in such a way as to image God properly–at least in principle. After the resurrection of the body, on the new earth, redeemed humanity will once again be able to image God perfectly.

The image of God in man must therefore be seen as involving both the structure of man (his gifts, capacities, and endowments) and the functioning of man (his actions, his relationships to God and to others, and the way he uses his gifts). To stress either of these at the expense of the other is to be one-sided. We must see both, but we need to see the structure of man as secondary and his functioning as primary.

God has created us in his image so that we may carry out a task, fulfill a mission, pursue a calling. To enable us to perform that task, God has endowed us with many gifts–gifts that reflect something of his greatness and glory. To see man as the image of God is to see both the task and the gifts. But the task is primary; the gifts are secondary. The gifts are the means for fulfilling the task.”

-Anthony A. Hoekema, Created in the God’s Image (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986), 72-73.

Man’s Reflection of God

“Man’s rational powers . . . reflect God’s reason, and enable man now, in a sense, to think God’s thoughts after him. Man’s moral sensitivity reflects something of the moral nature of God, who is the supreme determiner of right and wrong. Our capacity for fellowshipping with God in worship reflects the fellowship that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have with each other. Our ability to respond to God and to fellow human beings imitates God’s ability and willingness to respond to us when we pray to him. Our ability to make decisions reflects in a small way the supreme directing power of him “who works out everything in conformity to the purpose of his will” (Eph. 1:11). Our sense of beauty is a feeble reflection of the God who scatters beauty profusely over snow-crowned peaks, lake-jeweled valleys, and awe-inspiring sunsets. Our gift of speech is an imitation of him who constantly speaks to us, both in his world and in his word. And our gift of song echoes the God who rejoices over us with singing (Zeph. 3:17).”

-Anthony A. Hoekema, Created in the God’s Image (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986), 71.

Man’s Body As God’s Image

“Man’s Body also belongs to the image of God…. The body is not a tomb but a wondrous masterpiece of God, constituting the essence of man as fully as the soul… it belongs so essentially to man that, though through sin it is violently torn away from the soul [in death], it is nevertheless again united with the soul in the resurrection.”

-Herman Bavinck, Dogmatiek, 2:601, translation by Anthony A. Hoekema in Created in the God’s Image (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986), 68.

The Image of God

“Man does not simply bear or have the image of God; he is the image of God.

From the doctrine that man has been created in the image of God flows the clear implication that that image extends to man in his entirety. Nothing in man is excluded from the image of God. All creatures reveal traces of God, but only man is in the image of God. And he is that image totally, in soul and body, in all faculties and power, in all conditions and relationships. Man is the image of God because and insofar as he is true man, and he is man, true and real man, because and insofar as he is in the image of God.”

-Herman Bavinck, Dogmatiek, 2:595-96, translation by Anthony A. Hoekema in Created in the God’s Image (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986), 65.