KERUX: A JOURNAL
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ISSN 0888-8513 Vol. 6, No. 2
As promised in our last issue, we commence reprints of the sermons of Geerhardus Vos originally published in Grace and Glory (1922). These six messages are wonderfully evocative of the passion for God and Christ which is the heart and soul of all genuine biblical Christianity. If Reformed preaching today seems so cold, so contrived, so manufactured, so trite, it is because it is so passionless in regard to Christ. For Vos, as for Hosea and every inspired writer of Scripture, Christianity was nothing less than a lover's union with God in Christ. At times, as we read Vos, we almost blush—we are invited into the most intimate communion of his soul with his Creator and Redeemer. And at times, as we read Vos, we weep—weep at the flood of divine love which overwhelms us. But that is as it should be to the lovers of Christ Jesus, who are loved with an "everlasting love."
The editor has broken up the long paragraphs of Vos's original, inserted Scripture references where appropriate, modified punctuation and supplied the sub-headings. It is hoped that these minor changes will clarify Vos's meaning and make the sermon even more perspicuous to our readers.
We also include Professor Meredith G. Kline's final installment on the first night vision of Zechariah. It has been a great treat to be feasted with his insights into this obscure and difficult book.
Finally, our lengthy book review focuses on a raging battle royal in evangelical circles. Stuart Jones suggests how the discussion could have been resolved, in part, through a closer reading of Vos's Pauline Eschatology.
The Wonderful Tree
This prophetic utterance represents one of the two inseparable sides in the makeup of religion. If we say that religion consists of what God is for man and of what man is for God, then our text in the divine statement, "From me is thy fruit found," stands for the former. To balance it with the other side, some such word as that of Isaiah might be taken: "The vineyard of Jehovah of Hosts is the house of Israel" (Is. 5:7). Nor would it be an arbitrary combination of disconnected passages thus pointedly to place the one over against the other. In each case a careful study of the prophet would reveal that not some incidental turn of thought, but an habitual point of view, imparting tone and color to the entire religious experience, had found expression in a characteristic form of statement. The two points of view are supplementary and, taken together, exhaustive of what the normal relation between God and man involves. Until we learn to unite the Isaiah-type of piety with that of Hosea, we shall not attain a
full and harmonious development of our religious life.
Hosea and the World to Come
Let us this time look at the half-circle of truth expressed by the older prophet. The text stands in the most beautiful surroundings, not merely within Hosea's own prophecy, but in the entire Old Testament. There is a charm about this chapter more easily felt than described. It is like the clear shining after rain, when the sun rises, a morning without clouds. In what precedes, there is much that is hard to understand. Hosea's style is abrupt, full of strange leaps from vision to vision. But here we suddenly pass out of the labyrinth of involved oracles into the clear open. It is a prophecy suffused with deep feeling. All the native tenderness of the prophet, the acute sensitiveness and responsiveness of his emotional nature, rendering him, as it were, a musical instrument expectant of the Spirit's touch, are here in striking evidence; the dissonances of the many prophecies of woe resolve themselves in the sweet harmony of a closing prophecy of promise. And besides, the incomparable light of the future shines upon this chapter. It is bathed in the glory of the latter days, those glories which no prophet could describe without giving forth the finest notes of which his organ was capable. In the repertoire of the prophets, the choicest always belongs to the farthest. When their eye rests on the world to come, a miracle is wrought in their speech so that, in accord with the things described, it borrows from the melodies of the other world.
Still the spell thrown upon our minds by this piece is by no means wholly, or even chiefly, due to its form. It is the peculiar content that captivates the heart as the music captivates the ear. It is not to be expected of any prophet that he shall put into his prophecies relating to the end indiscriminately of his treasure, but chiefly what is to him its most precious part, that which the Spirit of revelation had led him, and him above others, to apprehend and appreciate. From utterances of this kind, therefore, we get our best perception of what lay nearest to the prophet's heart.
Certainly it is so here with Hosea. In its last analysis, the charm of this chapter is none other than the innate charm of the prophet's most cherished acquaintance with Jehovah. And, applied to the future, this may be summed up in the idea that the possession of Jehovah himself by his people will be of all the delights of the world to come the chief and most satisfying—the paradise within the paradise of God. The whole description leads up to this and revolves around it. As preparing for it, the return to Jehovah is mentioned first. The end of the great change is that the people may once more live in the presence of God. The prayer the prophet puts upon their lips is "take away all iniquity" (Hos. 14:2), with the emphasis upon the all, so as to indicate that not otherwise than by the absolute removal of all sin can the cloudless atmosphere be created for the supreme enjoyment of God. And the people pledge that their eyes and hearts henceforth shall be closed to the lure of idols. As a helpless orphan Israel casts herself upon Jehovah's grace: "We will not say anymore to the work of our hands, ye are our gods, for in thee the fatherless findeth mercy" (v. 3). But clearest of all, the idea appears in the direct speech Jehovah is represented as in that day addressing [to] the people, to the effect that he himself is eagerly desirous to pour out the riches of his affection upon the heart of Israel and meet her desire for him to the utmost measure of its capacity: "I have answered and will regard him; I will be as the dew to Israel: he shall blossom as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon. His branches shall spread, and his beauty shall be as the olive tree, and his smell as Lebanon. They shall revive as the grain, and blossom as the vine; I am like a green fir tree; from me is thy fruit found" (vv. 5-8).
Jehovah as a Green Tree
It will be seen from this that our text is really the climax of this speech of Jehovah. Through the addition of image to image, the divine purpose of giving himself gathers intensity till at last God appears as a green tree, bearing fruit for his people. This is truly a marvelous representation, well adapted to startle us when we think ourselves into it. It seems to imply something in God that, in the desire for
self-communication, exceeds even the strongest affection of a human parent for his children. And yet, my hearers, when reflecting upon it for a moment, can we fail to observe that the marvel in it is nothing else than the heart-miracle of all true religion, the great paradox underlying all God's concern with us. That he, the all-sufficient One, forever rich and blessed in himself, should, as it were, take himself in his own hands, making of himself an object to be bestowed upon a creature, so as to change before the eyes of the prophet into a tree, showering its fruit upon Israel, lavish as nothing in all nature but a tree can be.
This surely is something to be wondered at, and something which, though it recurs a thousand times, no experience or enjoyment ought to be able to rob of its wonder. There is in it more than we convey by the term "communion with God." That admits of relativity, there are degrees in it, but this figure depicts the thing in its highest and deepest possibility, as flowing from the divine desire so to take us into the immediate, intimate circle of his own life and blessedness, as to make all its resources serve our delight, a river of pleasures from his right hand. It might almost seem as if there were here a reversal of the process of religion itself, inasmuch as God appears putting himself at the service of man, and that with the absolute generosity born of supreme love. This relation into which it pleases God to receive Israel with himself has in it a sublime abandon; it knows neither restraint nor reserve. Using human language, one might say that God enters into this heart and soul and mind and strength. Since God thus gives himself to his people for fruition, and his resources are infinite, there is no possibility of their ever craving more or seeking more of him than it is good for them to receive. To deprive religion of this by putting it upon the barren basis of pure disinterestedness is not merely a pretense to be wiser than God, it is also an act of robbing God of his own joy through refusing the joy into which he has, as it were, resolved himself for us. So far from being a matter of gloom and depression, religion in its true concept is an exultant state, the supreme feast and Sabbath of the soul.
Religion and Fallen Man
Of course, in saying this, we do not forget that such religion in its absoluteness can be for a fallen race but a memory and a hope. The painful and distressing elements that enter into our Christian experience are by no means the product of a perverted and bigoted imagination. Religion need not be in error or insincere when it makes man put ashes on his head, instead of every day anointing his countenance with the oil of gladness. In order to be of any use whatever to us in a state of sin, it must assume the form of redemption, and from redemption the elements of penitence and pain are inseparable. Here lies the one source of all the discomfort and self-repression entering into the occupation of man with God, of the sad litany which revealed religion, and to some extent even natural religion, has chanted through the ages. Let no one in a spirit of superficial lightheartedness ridicule it, for, though it may have its excrescences and hypocrisies, in itself it is as inevitable as the joy of religion itself. There is as much reason to pity the man to whom religion has brought no sorrow as the one to whom it has brought no joy. The bitter herbs may not be omitted from the Paschal feast of deliverance. Perhaps the saddest thing to be said of sin is that it has thus been able to invade religion at its very core of joy, injecting into it the opposite of its nature.
And yet it is equally true that there is no religious joy like the joy engendered by redemption. Nor is this simply due to the law of contrast which makes the relief of deliverance proportionate to the pain which it succeeds. A more particular cause is at work here. In redemption God opens up himself to us and surrenders his inner life to our possession in a wholly unprecedented manner of which the religion of nature can have neither dream nor anticipation. It is more clearly in saving us than in creating us that God shows himself God. To taste and feel the riches of his Godhead as freely given unto us, one must have passed not only through the abjectness and poverty and despair of sin, but through the overwhelming experience of salvation. He who is saved explores and receives more of God than unfallen man
or even the unfallen angel can. The song of Moses and of the Lamb has in it a deeper exultation than that which the sons of God and the morning stars sang together for joy in the Creator.
The Gift of Redemption
This redemptive self-communication of God is what the prophet has particularly in mind in recording the promise of our text. As already stated, it is a gift of the future, and, of course, the entire future stands to him, as to every prophet, in the sign of redemption. Not as if the future meant only redemption. There is no more characteristic trait in prophecy than that it never makes the crisis of judgment a road to mere restoration of what existed before, but the occasion for the bringing in of something wholly new and inexperienced in the past, so that Jehovah comes out of the conflict, not as one who has barely snatched his work from destruction, but as the great Victor who has made the forces of sin and evil his servants for the accomplishment of a higher and wider purpose.
There is an exact correspondence in this respect between the large movement of redemption, taken as a whole, and the enactment of its principles on a smaller scale within the history of Israel. As the second Adam is greater than the first, and the paradise of the future fairer than that of the past, so the newborn Israel to the prophet's vision is a nobler figure and exists under far more favorable conditions than the empirical Israel of before. Once its Peniel night is over, it will live in the light and feed upon the goodness of God, and be beautified through its religious embrace of him. This thought is not unclearly suggested by the very figure of our text.
Whatever may be the precise tree species designated by the word berosh (here rendered as "fir tree"), at any rate an evergreen is meant, a tree retaining its verdure in all seasons of the year, never failing in its power to shade and to refresh. The reason is none other than that for which Israel in its beauty is compared to the olive tree (v. 6), a tree likewise perennially clothed with foliage. But there is still something else and far more wonderful about this tree. While by nature not a
fruit bearing tree in the ordinary sense, it changes itself into one before the eyes of the prophet. If nothing more than the idea of fruitfulness were intended, the figure of the olive tree would have lain closer at hand. But the labor of the olive is a process of nature and bound to the seasons, and evidently what Hosea wishes to express is the concurrence in the same tree of miraculous fruitage, perennial yield and never failing shade (for the context emphasizes all three).
It is evident that we are here in another tree-world than that of Palestine; it is the neighborhood of the tree of life of which we read elsewhere that it yields its fruit every month. Plainly Jehovah is thus represented on account of his specific redemptive productiveness, and that in its heightened future form when new unheard of influences shall proceed from him for the nourishing and enjoyment of his people. Surely here is something that nature, even God's goodness in nature, could never yield.
Perhaps we are not assuming too much by finding still another element in the comparison. In emphasizing the verdant, living character of Jehovah with reference to Israel, the prophet may have had in mind, by way of contrast, the pagan deity from which these qualities of life and fruitfulness and miraculous provision are utterly absent. There used to stand beside the altar of idolatry a pole rudely fashioned in the image of Asherah, the spouse of Baal and goddess of fruitfulness. Nothing could have more strikingly symbolized the barrenness and hopelessness of nature worship than this dead stump in which no bud could sprout, and on which no bird would alight, and of which no fruit was to be found forever. How desperate is the plight of those Canaanites, modern no less than ancient, who must look for the satisfaction of their hunger to the dead wood of the Asherah of nature because they have no faith in the perpetual miracle of the fruit bearing fir tree of redemption.
The Promised Fruit
But let us endeavor to ascertain what concrete meaning the prophet attaches to the image of the text. What is the fruit that is
promised to Israel? To answer this we shall have to go beyond the confines of the text and look around us in the preceding prophecy. The study of this will teach that there are four outstanding features to Jehovah's gift to Israel of the fruition of himself. We find that it is eminently personal, exclusive, individual and transforming in its influence.
In the first place then, Israel's fruition of Jehovah is eminently personal. One might truthfully say that the idea of the possession of one's God in this pointedly personal sense is an idea grown on the soil of revelation, nurtured by the agelong self-communication of God to his own. To be sure, the thought that the fortunes of life must be related to the deity is a common one in Semitic religion. Edom and Moab and Ammon also have joy before their gods. But this is still something far different from having joy in one's God. The latter is Israel's distinction. To have a god and to have God are two things. The difference can be measured by the presence and the absence of the covenant idea in the two different circles. When Jehovah, entering into covenant with Israel, says, "I will be unto you a God, and ye shall be unto me a people," this means infinitely more than the trite idea: henceforth ye shall worship me and I will cultivate you. It is the mutual surrender of person to person. Jehovah throws in his lot with Israel, no less truly than Israel's lot is bound up with Jehovah. To express it in terms of the text, one would have to force the figure and say that not merely the fruit, nor merely the tree for its fruit, but the tree itself as a glorious living being is the cherished treasure of the owner. The sense of this is so vivid that it has given rise to the phrase "Portion of Israel" as a personal name of God.
To the mind of Hosea the most forcible, indeed final and absolute, expression of this precious truth had been reached in the form of the marriage union between God and Israel. That is simply a closer specification of the covenant idea, and it brings out precisely that side of it on which we are dwelling, the personal aspect of the union involved. While this is from the nature of the case conceived of as mutual, yet the emphasis rests perceptibly on the divine side of it. To
be sure, Israel also personally surrendered herself to Jehovah, for we read that she made answer in the days of her youth, and through Jeremiah God declares: "I remember thee for the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals, how thou wentest after me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown" (Jer. 2:2). But that was in the beginning; in the sequel Israel soon proved indifferent and faithless. The burden of the message lies in the ascription of this to Jehovah as a permanent, unchangeable disposition. He had not for one moment ceased to be the personal and intimate life companion of Israel. The covenant might be suspended, but so long as it lasted, it could have no other meaning than this, for this lay at its heart.
In a number of delicate little touches the prophet reveals his consciousness of it. After the dire calamities of the judgment have overwhelmed the people and seemingly left nothing further to be swept away, then, as a climax, by the side of which all else shrinks into insignificance, Jehovah announces that he will now personally withdraw from Israel. And corresponding to this, after they have sat many days in the desolation of exile, all but divorced from God, the first and supremely important step in their conversion is that they come trembling unto Jehovah and unto his goodliness in the latter days. Even in the Messianic outlook this strongly personal viewpoint appears. With a peculiarly affectionate turn to the thought, the prophet represents the people as in the end seeking David their king, through remembrance of the sure covenant mercies attaching to the name of one who was the man after God's heart, and thus in himself a pledge of the divine love towards the people.
In the sphere of external, terrestrial gifts the same principle applies. Here, of course, revealed religion comes nearest to the circle of ideas of paganism. Baal, no less than Jehovah, is supposed to give to his servants the produce of the soil. But what a principle difference between the attitude in which paganism entertains this idea and the spirit in which the prophet expects Israel to cherish it! The pagan cult cleaves to the sod, and buries itself in the heaps of grain and the rivers of oil, and remembers not, except in the most external way, the god
who gave. The worship sits loosely upon the life; it is a habit rather than an organic function, and subject to change, if the turn of fortune requires. Paganized Israel herself is introduced as speaking in the distress of harvest failure, "I will go after my lovers, that give me my bread and my water, my wool and my flax, mine oil and my drink" (Hos. 2:5). "But," says Jehovah, "she knew not that I gave her the grain and the must and the oil and multiplied unto her silver and gold" (Hos. 2:8).
To Hosea the main principle is that the gifts shall come to the people with the dew of Jehovah's love upon them, deriving their value not so much from what they are intrinsically but from the fact of their being tokens of affection, to each one of which clings something of the personality of the giver. And Jehovah knows such a special art of putting himself into these favors; he is not imprisoned in them as are the Baals, but freely lives in and loves through them so as to make them touch the heart of Israel. When the time of her new betrothal comes, and she sees the gifts for her adornment, she exclaims, "Ishi, my husband!" and no longer "Baali, my lord!" (Hos. 2:16).
Notice the role that nature plays in effecting this; the externals are by no means despised; they have simply ceased to be externals and been turned into one great sacramental vehicle of spiritual favor. Jehovah sets in motion the whole circuit of nature for the service of his people: "It shall come to pass in that day, I will answer the heavens and they shall answer the grain and the new wine and the oil, and they shall answer Jezreel" (Hos. 2:21,22). The things do not mutely grow: they speak, they answer, they sing and the voice that travels through them is the voice of Jehovah. Nature becomes the instrument of grace. That in the spiritual sphere proper everything proceeds along the same line need hardly be pointed out. God speaks comfortably unto Israel to call her back to repentance. He loves her freely, and it is through making her realize this fact that he effects her return. His bridal gifts to Israel are righteousness and mercy and faithfulness and lovingkindness. The mercy that he shows them in their distress is at bottom something far deeper and finer and more spiritualized than the
generic sense of pity. It is chesed ("lovingkindness"), i.e., mercy intensified a thousand times by the tenderness of an antecedent love. It is not compassion that saves Israel, for compassion, though truly spiritual in itself, lies but on the circumference of that mysterious saving movement that springs in the divine heart from love and grace as its center.
Jehovah's Exclusive Possession
In the second place, the possession and enjoyment for which Jehovah offers himself to Israel are an exclusive relationship. Here the figure of marriage comes into play. Hosea has greatly idealized this figure, at least as compared with the customs of his time. No matter which side we choose in the exegetical dispute as to whether the first three chapters are allegory or recite facts, in either case, be it by a unique experience or through a unique vision, the prophet has produced a marriage ideal fit to be the parable of the covenant. In this idealized form, it renders most faithfully the latter's essential features. For emphasizing the pure spirituality of the relation nothing could be more suitable. In this respect, it excels even the figure of fatherhood and sonship. For these originate in nature without free choice.
The bond of marriage, as conceived by Hosea, was established through a spiritual process. God, after having created Israel, sought and cultivated her affection. He did this in the beginning and will do it again in the future. So intent is the prophet upon guarding the ideal, ethereal perfection of the union that he studiously avoids representing the coming state of blessedness as a restoration of the previous bond, lest the sin clouds of the past should project their shadows into it. Therefore the consistency of the figure is disregarded; no reparation, no remarriage is mentioned; the past is blotted out; the sin loses both stain and sting; the future arises as a fresh creation out of the waters of oblivion beneath which Israel's guilt has been buried. It is the new, otherwise unrepeatable, love of the first bloom of youth shedding its fragrance over all: "I will betroth thee unto me in faithfulness, and I will say, Thou art my people, and they shall say, Thou art our God"
Now this same idealization also appears in regard to the mutual exclusiveness of the covenant attachment. For we must remember that the prophet affirms this with equal absoluteness with reference to the covenant husband as to the wife, and in this respect custom in his day fell far short of the ideal. When God gives himself to Israel, it is with the clear understanding and promise that he does not do so to any other people. And the exclusiveness on the part of God demands an equally exclusive return of love and service such as shall leave no room for strange devotion. Still, at this point, the reality somehow again transcends the figure. Not that God is husband, but the kind of husband he is comes under consideration. It is not merely his general honor that is at stake, as would be the case in ordinary human marriage; apart from all else the specifically divine character of his person and love renders exclusiveness imperative. Even in giving himself God remains God and requires from Israel the acknowledgment of this. The gift is divine and desires for itself a temple where no other presence shall be tolerated. If we feel God to be ours, then we also feel that no one but God can ever be ours in the same exclusive ineffable sense and that every similar absorption by any purely human relationship would partake of the idolatrous.
The only thing that can give a faint suggestion of the engrossing character of the divine hold upon his people is the first awakening of what we call romantic love in the youthful heart with its concentration of all the intensified impulses and forces and desires upon one object and its utter obliviousness to all other interests. This actually in some measure resembles the single-minded, world-forgetful affection we owe to God, and for that very reason is called worship. But it is a state of momentary, supernormal exaltation which cannot last because in the creature there is not that which will justify and sustain it. Eternalize this and put into it the divine instead of the human, and you will have a dim image of what the mutual exclusiveness of devotion between God and man in the covenant bond implies. Here lies the infallible test of what is truly religious in our so-called religion. Everything that
lacks the unique reference to God as its supreme owner and end is automatically ruled out from that sphere. Yea, anything that is cherished and cultivated apart from God in such a sense that we cannot carry it with us in the Godward movement of our life becomes necessarily a hindrance, a profanation and at last a source of idolatry.
Man's nature is so built that he must be religious either in a good or in a bad sense. Ill-religious he may, but simply non-religious he cannot be. What he fails to bring into the temple of God, he is sure to set up on the outside, and not seldom at the very gate, as a rival object of worship. And often the more ostensibly spiritual and refined these things are, the more potent and treacherous their lure. The modern man who seeks to save and perfect himself has a whole pantheon of ideals, each of them a veritable god sapping the vitals of his religion. Nay, the prophet goes even farther than this: Jehovah himself can be made an object of idolatry. If one fails to form a true conception of his character and weaves into the mental image formed of him the false features gathered from other quasi-divine beings, then, whatever the name employed, be it God or Jehovah or even "the Father," the reality of the divine life is not in it. In such a case, it is the perverted image that evokes the worship, instead of the true God.
Hence the prophet does not hesitate to place the calf of Bethel, in which all Israel meant to serve Jehovah, on a line with the idols of the Canaanites and to call it outright by the name of Baal. This may remind us that the rival interest which interferes with the exclusiveness of our devotion to God is not seldom taken from the sphere of religion itself. Where that happens, the most insidious form of adultery ensues because it permits the delusion to remain that with an undivided heart we are cleaving to the Lord. Our outgoing activities, our good works of service, our concern with the externals of religion, all this, unless kept in the closest, most vital contact with God himself, will inevitably tend to acquire a degree of detachment and independence in which it may easily withdraw from God the consecration that ought to go to and the satisfaction that ought to come from him alone. There is even such a thing as worshipping one's religion instead of
one's God. How easily the mind falls into the habit of merely enlisting God as an ally in the fight for creature betterment, almost oblivious to the fact that he is the King of glory for whose sake the whole world exists and the entire battle is waged!
Sometimes it is difficult not to feel that God is reckoned with, chiefly because his name and prestige and resources are indispensable for success in a cause that really transcends him, and that the time may yet come when as a supernumerary he will be set aside. Is it not precisely this that often makes the atmosphere of Christian work so chill and uninspiring? Though we compel the feet to move to the accelerated pace of our modern religious machinery, the heart is atrophied and the lukewarm blood flows sluggishly through our veins. Let each one examine himself whether to any extent he is caught in the whirl of this centrifugal movement. The question, though searching, is an extremely simple one: Do we love God for his own sake and find in this love the inspiration of service, or do we patronize him as an influential partner under whose auspices we can better conduct our manifold activities in the service of the world? It was not said with a manward reference alone, that if one should bestow all his goods to feed the poor, and give his body to be burned, and not have love, it would profit him nothing. That which is necessary to hallow an act towards our neighbor must be certainly indispensable in any service for rendering it sacrifice well-pleasing unto God.
Jehovah Gives Himself
In the third place, the fruition of himself granted by God to us is individual. There can be no division to it; each must of necessity receive the whole, if he is to receive it at all. This follows from the nature of the gift itself. If the gift consisted of impersonal values, either material or spiritual, the supply might be quantitatively distributed over many persons. But being as it is, the personal favor of God, it must be poured as a whole into the receptacle of the human heart. The parable of marriage not only teaches that the covenant relation is a monogamic one, but implies besides that it is a bond
binding unitary soul to soul. There is an inner sanctuary of communion where all else disappears from sight and the believer shut in with God gazes upon his loveliness and appropriates him, as though outside of him nothing mattered or existed. These may be fugitive moments, and they may be rare in our experience, but we surely must know them if God's fruitbearing for us is to be a reality in our lives.
The prophet evidently had feeling for this, although the dispensation of the covenant under which he lived made it far more difficult to attain than in our time. The collective method of procedure pursued at that stage related everything in the first instance to the nation of Israel. To it belong the election, the love, the union with God, the future. It is quite in accordance with this that Israel as a body appears as the bride and the wife of Jehovah, or in the terms of a different figure as the son he has called out of Egypt. None the less it yields a pure abstraction when this is carried to the extreme of a denial of every individual bond between the single Israelite and Jehovah. On the basis of the collective relationship, in which the many unite as one, there must of necessity have sprung up an individual attachment in which the single believer and Jehovah directly touched each other. As there was private sacrifice alongside of the public ritual service, so there must have flourished personal worship and affection for God in the hearts of the pious. The devotional fragrance wafted to us from so many a page in the Old Testament bears abundant witness to this.
But, while no true Israelite could be entirely without this, there existed doubtless many degrees in the individualizing of what was so largely a common possession. The nature of the prophetic office brought with it a certain detachment from the mass and a peculiar intimacy with Jehovah. And yet the note of individualism is not equally strong in all the prophets. It is interesting to observe where and when and how it emerges. Its two great exponents before the exile are Hosea and Jeremiah. These two speak not only from and for Jehovah, but also to Jehovah. They are preeminently the prophets of prayer. In the case of each, there appears to be some connection between the temperament of the prophet and the cultivation of this
element. Both exceptionally endowed in their emotional nature, they instinctively sought and (under the influence of the Spirit) were enabled to find what could satisfy this deep instinct. Religion as centered in the heart cannot but incline towards individualism, for the heart with its hidden feelings is the most incapable of duplication of all the factors that enter into it. Belief and intent of will may be standardized; the emotional reaction is like the wind of heaven: we hear the sound thereof, yet know not whence it cometh nor whither it goeth; so it is with the world of religious feeling; it has a coloring and tone of its own in each individual child of God.
Hosea being of a most tender and impressionable temperament was on that account chosen to secure for the covenant bond in his own life, and through his influence in the life of others, that sweet privacy and inwardness which forms the most precious possession of every pious soul. Here lies the cause of that vivid, lifelike personification to which the prophet subjects the people of Israel, putting words upon their lips expressing a mode of feeling such as, strictly speaking, only an individual can experience. It is his own heart that the prophet has put into the body of Israel. The construction is in the plural, but the spirit is in the singular, and it needs only to be translated back into the singular to render it a most appropriate speech for every believer in addressing Jehovah: "Come and let us return unto Jehovah; for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he bath smitten and he will bind us up. After two days will he revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live before him. And let us know, let us follow on to know Jehovah: his going forth is sure as the morning; and he will come unto us as the rain, as the latter rain that watereth the earth" (Hos. 6:1-3).
And thus the prophet, and through him doubtless others, had the wonderful experience that the God of Israel could give himself to a single person with the same individual interest and undivided devotion, as if that person were the only one to whom his favor extended. This is necessary to complete the fruition of God. Every child of God, no matter how broad his vision and enlarged his
sympathies, is conscious of carrying within himself a private sanctuary, an inner guest chamber of the heart where he desires to be at times alone with God and have his Savior to himself. So instinctive and irrepressible is the craving for this, that it may easily give rise to a sort of spiritual jealousy, making it difficult to believe that the God who has given himself to millions of others should receive us along into absolute intimacy and show us the secret of his covenant. Does it seem improper to pray, "Come Lord to me alone, and close the door, that I may have thee to myself for a day and an hour?" Should this feeling come to us and perplex us, the best way to meet it is to consider the existence of the same mystery in the relation of earthly parents to their children. It matters not whether there be one or ten, each child has the full affection of the father's and mother's heart. If we that are creatures can experience the working of this miracle in our finite lives, how much more can the infinite God be present to a countless number of souls and give to each one of them the same ineffable gift? He is God and not man, the Holy One, both in our midst and in our hearts.
Transformation and Incarnation
Finally, the possession and enjoyment of Jehovah by Israel has, according to the prophet, a transforming effect. Here we touch upon the greatest wonder in our fruition of God. This tree, unlike the probation tree of paradise, has the veritable power of making man like unto God. Those who dwell together in the holy companionship of the covenant grow like unto each other. There is a magic assimilative influence in all the spiritual intimacies of life. But here the mystery is deepest because it plays between God and man. It works in both directions: as it has caused God's gift of himself to us to assume even the form of the incarnation in which he became flesh of our flesh and bone of our bones, so in the opposite direction it makes us partakers of the divine nature, putting upon our souls God's image and superscription. This is not, of course, the fusing of two entities; such a thought lay far from Hosea's mind. It is the interpenetration of the two conscious lives of God and man, each holding the other in the close embrace of a perfect sympathy.
The prophet has developed this thought also in connection with the marriage idea. As the wife becomes like unto the husband, and the husband unto the wife through the daily association of years, so Israel, the wife of Jehovah, is bound to undergo an inner change through which the features of God are slowly but surely wrought out in her character. The beauty of the Lord God is put upon her. This law works with absolute necessity. The prophet traces it even in the shameful pagan cult which in other respects is the caricature of the true religion of Israel. Those who come to Baal-Peor and consecrate themselves to the shameful thing become abominable like that which they love. The principle laid down applies to all idolatry, open or disguised; whatever man substitutes for the living God as an object of his supreme devotion not only turns into his master, but ends with becoming a superimposed character fashioning him irresistibly into likeness with itself. There is no worshipper but bears the image of his God. The self-sovereignty and the independence affected by sin are not allowed to exist. With a sure nemesis religion reclaims its own and in each one of its pseudo-forms thrusts man back into the attitude of worship.
Likeness to God, however, is not merely the effect of his giving himself to us, it is also the condition on which the reality of such divine self-communication is suspended. To have God and to be owned by God in the profound covenant sense would be impossible and result in doing violence to the nature of God and man alike, if the character of man could not be made to fit into the nature and will of God. The basis of all religion is that man must exist in the image of God. Only on this basis can the further assimilation proceed. But the prophet has given this thought the warm baptism of affection. A power of conscious love is at work in the process. To bring out his own image in Israel is the delight of Israel's lover and husband. This is the reason why the likeness is represented as beginning with the day of betrothal, and the chief qualities entering into it appear as a bridal gift from God to Israel, God giving her, as it were, of his own attributes: "I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness and in justice, in lovingkindness and in mercies, and thou shalt know Jehovah" (Hos.
That the gift is a gift of likeness appears also in this, that it is equivalent to the knowledge of Jehovah. Hence the emphasis thrown on the need of knowledge in Hosea's prophecy. God is declared to have known Israel in the wilderness, in the land of great drought. And of Israel it is required, "Thou shalt know no God but me." In both cases the meaning of the word goes far beyond the intellectual sphere; to know is not a mere act or process of becoming informed, but an act of sympathetic absorption in the other's character. It describes Jehovah's original choice of Israel as a most affectionate determination of what Israel was to be, and the attitude of the people as a passionate searching after the perfections of the divine nature. It is that self-projection of the lover into the beloved which is more than knowledge through the understanding. Hence also the trait of eagerness which the prophet ascribes to it. It is not a state of contentment, but partakes of the extreme restlessness of love in motion: "O let us know, let us follow on to know Jehovah!" (Hos. 6:3). This is to such an extent the heart and soul of the marriage that the one great adultery consists in this: that Israel does not know and does not care to know Jehovah. For that is to fail of the end for which the covenant exists; it makes the marriage idle and fruitless.
And finally, my hearers, from this some light falls upon the mystery that a finite creature can receive and possess the infinite God. To speak of giving and possession and enjoyment is after all but speaking in figures. When we try to resolve the figure into the thing itself, the reality grows so great and deep that it transcends our minds, and we must resign ourselves to an experience without understanding. But here is something that we can at least make relatively clear to ourselves: the fruition of God consists in the reception by us of his likeness into ourselves, so that his beauty of character becomes literally our own. So close and so precious an identification no other love can dream of and no other union attain. In it the fruit and the tree become one; we feel and taste that the Lord is for our delight. And when that picture, which Hosea saw as in a glass darkly through
the tracings of the imagery of lily and olive tree and grain and wine, when that picture shall have resolved itself for us into the spiritual realities of the life to come, then also the covenant climax will have been reached, every sacrament shall fall away, and our fruition shall be of God within God; we shall at last be like him, because we know him as he is.
Princeton Theological Seminary
Princeton, New Jersey
Meredith G. Kline
III. Oracle of Hope (Zechariah 1:13-17)
In the Angel's intercession (v. 12), the focus moved from the deep to the myrtles (cf. vv. 8-11); in this closing oracle (vv. 13-17), the focus is on the Glory-Presence or, in terms of the symbolism of this first night vision, on the rider of the red horse.
1. Literary Structure: The oracular response of Yahweh of hosts to the Angel of Yahweh is communicated by this divine Angel (denoted in v. 13 simply as "Yahweh") to the interpreting angel and then relayed by the latter to Zechariah to be proclaimed to God's people. Though the act of response is not explicitly narrated, the ultimate divine speaker of the oracular message handed along in this complex transmission chain is made clear by the interpreting angel's fourfold repetition of the formula, "thus says Yahweh of hosts," within vv. 14-17. That the contents of vv. 14-17 are
to be understood as the expected divine response to the Angel's plea in v. 12 is further indicated by their general appropriateness as a reassuring answer to the concerns expressed by the Angel. Also, like v. 12, they refer to both Jerusalem and the cities of Judah (called "my cities" in v. 17). Standing as the link between the petition of v. 12 and the response of vv. 14-17, the statement in v. 13 is plainly intended as an introductory summary of the response. Confirming this is the appearance of the verb "comfort" (nhm) in the latter (cf. v. 17), echoing the description of the Angel's words in the former as "comforting" (nihumim).1
Zechariah receives the oracle in the form of a charge to proclaim it. This charge, expressed by the verb qara', "cry,"2 plus the messenger formula, "thus says Yahweh of hosts," frames and thus unifies the oracle, for the interpreting angel begins with this commissioning of Zechariah to prophetic activity (v. 14) and concludes with a repetition of it (v. 17).
In v. 16a, the word of solemn verification, laken ("verily"), with the messenger formula introduces the central, utterly crucial affirmation of God's presence. The preceding part of the oracle (vv. 14,15) relates directly to the report of the horsemen about the oppressor nations (v. 11), and the following part (vv. 16b, 17) deals with the mercies which God purposes to bestow on Jerusalem. As the Angel's intercession showed (v. 12), the disheartening status of the covenant community was implicit in the reported contemptuous ease of the dominant nations and accordingly there is already a reflection on this in the reference to Jerusalem and Zion in the first part of the Lord's response concerning the nations (cf. v. 14). But in the concluding part of the oracle, the plight of the covenant people is addressed directly as the Lord promises them a future of blessing that will spell the end of the world power's dominance over them. Prospects for the temple and city are presented in v. 16b and then restated in v. 17, with reversed sequence (i.e., city and temple). The mention of Zion and Jerusalem at the close (v. 17) forms an inclusio echoing (again in chiastic arrangement) the reference to Jerusalem and Zion at the beginning (v.
14), and is thus an additional unifying feature of the oracle as a whole.
2. Covenantal-Typological Context: What we shall find to be the sum and substance of this oracle is the promise of a restoration that would, in effect, bring to consummate form the holy kingdom covenanted from the beginning in Eden. At its origination the kingdom in the garden had as its cultic focus the mountain of God's Glory-council. There the heavenly King was present, the protector and provider of his priestly family on earth. Set before mankind was an historical mission, the global propagation of the human family and expansion of their delegated dominion over creation. They were to develop the kingdom-city from its original cultic focus to its cultural fulness, to a predestined pleroma. The cultural task would be cult-oriented for the kingdom-city at its fulness would still retain its cultic focus; it would be a temple-city, the city of the great King. Moreover, the pleroma of mankind would itself be God's temple, destined for incorporation into the heavenly temple of the Glory-Spirit.
This original goal of the Covenant of Creation was resumed as the telos of the program of redemptive restoration after the Fall. The heavenly temple-city became the ultimate kingdom hope to be achieved through the coming One, the promised Messiah. In premessianic times the heavenly inheritance of the redeemed humanity in Christ was symbolically modelled in the form of the kingdom bestowed on Israel in Canaan, a provisional pointer to the true fulfillment of kingdom promise to be attained under the new and better covenant ratified by the sacrifice of the God-man mediator. In Israel's paradise in Canaan, the type of heaven, a cultic focus was established, Zion the mountain of God, crowned by the temple-city of Jerusalem. It was set in the center of the kingdom fulness defined by the stipulated bounds of the promised land. Henceforth in biblical revelation particular features of the typological kingdom of Israel would serve in prophetic parlance as designations for their counterparts in the messianic kingdom. In this idiom, Zion and Jerusalem signify the true heavenly mountain and temple-city of the world to
Also portrayed in Israel's typological history was the fact that the eternal city would be secured as an act of gracious restoration of blessings forfeited in the Fall. Like man under the Covenant of Creation, Israel broke a covenant of works (the principle operative in the typological kingdom dimension of the Mosaic economy), lost its covenant status and was exiled as Lo-Ammi, Not-My-People, from its holy paradise. However, in a display of divine grace, Israel was regathered from Babylonian exile to the land of promise and that was, of course, the immediate historical context of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah. While this typological restoration of Jerusalem, the temple, and the cities of Judah is indeed addressed in the Lord's response in Zechariah 1:13-17, the oracle looks beyond to a greater restoration of which the typological history becomes a figurative image. It serves as a symbolic medium in which the Lord expresses the promise of a future restoration of the kingdom of God, a restoration not realized in Old Testament times, a messianic restoration not fully realized until the end of this present world.
B. Return of the Lord of Glory (cf. the Rider of the Red Horse): In our treatment of the particulars of the Lord's response (1:14-17) we will begin with the heart of the matter, which is stated in the middle of the oracle (v. 16a). "Truly, thus says Yahweh, I am returned to Jerusalem with mercies." The verb return (shub) is used in the opening exhortation in 1:1-6 to sum up both the covenant obligation of the people to commit themselves anew to their holy calling and the covenant blessings which the Lord promises to bestow on them: "return unto me...and I will return unto you" (v. 3).
The personal presence of the One who covenants with us to be our God is the preeminent reality of biblical religion. "Whom have I in heaven but thee? And there is none on earth that I desire besides thee" (Ps. 73:25). In Ezekiel's visions the essence of exile-judgment is captured in the scene of the departure of the Glory of Yahweh from the temple-mount (Ezk. 10:18, 19; 11:23) and, correspondingly, the epitome of restoration is represented as the return of that Glory from
the east and its presence once more, filling again the temple in Jerusalem (Ezk. 43:2-5). Apart from God's Presence there is no restoration, no holy land, no holy city, no holy temple, for it is this Presence alone that sanctifies. Nor is there paradise land of life, for the Glory-Spirit is the life-giving Spirit. He is the One from whom all blessings flow, the fount of all covenant beatitude.
Agreeably, "with mercies" is appended to the promised return of the Lord (1:16a). The reference is to the benefits that will accompany his presence, the benefits of vindication (1:14,15), sanctification and exaltation (1:16b,17). God's mercies or compassions (rahamim) are often mentioned in the context of prayer (cf., e.g., Neh. 9:27; Dan. 9:18; Zech. 10:6). In the oracle of Zechariah 1:14-17 the promise of mercies is in response to the plea of the Angel that the Lord show mercy (the verb raham) to his people (v. 12). Deuteronomy 30:3; Isaiah 14:1; 49:10,13; 54:8; Jeremiah 33:6; Ezekiel 39:25; and Hosea 2:19(21) are other passages where either the verb or noun in question is used with reference to restoration from a state of exile. All of these are prophecies of new covenant restoration (some so interpreted in specific New Testament citations), reminding us that the Zechariah 1 oracle also has this antitypical dimension.
Supreme among, as well as source of, all the other promised blessings is God's own Presence, granted in grace. In the development of the theme of the rebuilding of Jerusalem in Zechariah's third vision, the thought of God as the all in all is expressed by the picture of his Glory as an all-encompassing and all-filling presence in the temple-city: "For I, saith Yahweh, will be unto her a wall of fire round about, and I will be the glory in the midst of her" (Zech. 2:5; cf. the original paradise-sanctuary in Eden).
Insofar as the return of God's Presence affirmed in Zechariah 1:16 had reference to the prophet's own day it had to be accepted by the Israelites on faith on the basis of God's word, because to ordinary mortal eyes it was not a visible presence (cf. 2 Kgs. 6:17). Only the prophet-seer himself, in the Spirit, saw the Presence. The Lord's declaration, "I am returned," was simply a verbalizing of the reality
symbolized in the vision of the rider on the red horse, present in the midst of the myrtles. The divine Presence was present in the person of this divine Angel-rider, Lord of angels, judge of the nations, advocate of God's elect, making intercession for the myrtle community in the wilderness by the deep.
A new stage in the history of God's presence begins with the advent recorded in the Gospels. Christian hearts rejoice in the incarnation-presence of the messianic Angel, Immanuel his name, who declares that he who has seen him has seen the Father (John 14:9). In him the Lord of mercies has returned to mankind in their exile from Eden, dispersed in the wilderness of the fallen world. Though in these post-ascension, preconsummation days the divine presence is again not visible, the Son having gone to the Father, we bear witness to God's presence in the Spirit. In joyful faith we say: Let the Feast of Tabernacles be celebrated. The Lord is present, tabernacling in the midst of his people here and now in the Spirit, forming us anew in his image as his spiritual temple. The re-creation has begun within, an invisible token of the future return of Glory (a kind of inside-out sacrament). In the Spirit's presence we have the foretaste of the new heavens and new earth and its temple-city, New Jerusalem, the kingdom inheritance of the saints in the consummate, eternal age of creation's history.3
The Angel whose appearance in Zechariah's vision manifests the return of God to his people is the Angel of the Presence. He is the agent of the Glory-Spirit, the One who is executor of the covenant's dual sanctions of blessing and curse. Such was the twofold office of God's Presence in the redemptive judgments of the flood and exodus. He shielded and guided the people of God (Exod. 13:21; 14:19,20), but discomfited and destroyed their foes and persecutors (Exod. 14:24). Consonant with that, the assurance of God's return in the Angel of the Presence in Zechariah 1:16 is attended by the declaration that the Lord will both comfort Jerusalem and deal in anger with the nations. The threat of wrath comes first in the divine oracle (vv. 14,15), then the promise of blessings (vv. 16,17).
C. Jealous Wrath against the Nations (cf: the Deep): Beginning with an announcement of what the Lord's return portends for the nations, the oracle speaks of his "great jealousy" and "great wrath." In intensity of feeling this response matches the importunate intercession of the Angel. The Lord of hosts displays as much zeal for granting salvation in fulfillment of his covenant as did the advocate of his people in requesting it. His great jealousy and wrath here are complementary aspects of his attitude towards one and the same object. This combination is found again in an elaboration of this theme in Zechariah 8:2, where the Lord says he is "jealous with great anger."4
Most frequently in the Old Testament God's angry jealousy is his response to Israel for disloyalty to him in favor of other gods. So, for example, the identification of Yahweh as a jealous God in the curse sanction attached to the second stipulation of the Decalogue-covenant (Exod. 20:5; Deut. 5:9) threatens judgment on those who violate their sworn commitment by worshipping some creature-thing, not the Creator Lord himself. Such jealousy is a matter of offended honor and outraged majesty. Another notable instance of God's jealousy directed against Israel is found in the judicial witness song of Deuteronomy 32. Here Moses warns that when Israel, prosperously ensconced in Canaan, provokes God to jealousy with their no-gods and to anger with their vain idols, he will respond by applying the lex talionis, provoking them to jealous anger with a no-people (w. 16-21).
But the situation in Zechariah 1:14,15 is distinct from that in which Israel is the one who provokes God to jealousy by giving service to idols. Here it is the nations of the deep, not the covenant people, who have incited the angry jealousy of Yahweh. The fact that his jealousy is said to be "for Jerusalem and for Zion" (v. 14; cf. 8:2) has misled some into separating the jealousy from the anger against the nations and viewing the former as a solicitous jealousy for Israel's welfare, a zeal to prosper them. Actually, the phrase "for Jerusalem and Zion" goes with the anger as much as with the jealousy and indicates the area with respect to which the nations have offended the
Lord God and made him angrily jealous against them. The point is that Jerusalem-Zion represents the people whom Yahweh had claimed as his own servants, bringing them under his suzerainty by covenant; Israel was his own vassal people. They were his private, personal possession, the portion he set aside as his royal inheritance long ago when he was distributing the people of the earth among the sons of El (Deut. 32:8,9).5 And Yahweh's prerogatives as suzerain over the Israelites had been challenged by the great kings of the earth who took them into captivity. These usurpers were exacting from Yahweh's vassals the tributary allegiance which belonged to him. His great name was being scoffed at among the nations by reason of Israel's inglorious state. It was, therefore, out of concern for his own name and sovereign claims that the Lord was jealously furious with these rival suzerains, these antichrists who would grasp his domain and spoil him of his own with respect to Jerusalem and Zion. This jealous concern for the reclaiming and repossessing of what was rightfully his finds further expression, as the oracle continues, in the repeated possessive pronouns: "my house...my cities" (1:16,17).
Joel 2:18 also speaks of Yahweh's jealousy in a context of threats to drive off the aggressor nations that brought reproach on Israel and scorn on the name of their God (2:17,19,20). There too Yahweh's concern for his own prerogative and property surfaces in the possessive pronouns: he "was jealous for his land and had pity on his people." Once more in Ezekiel 39:25, another passage that mentions the divine jealousy in a restoration context, the jealousy is for God's own honor. Dispersal of his people from their land had resulted in defamation of God's name among the nations and he states specifically that it is out of jealousy "for my holy name" that he will take action to sanctify his name and glorify himself in the eyes of his people and of all the nations (Ezk. 38:16,23; 39:6,7,21,22,27,28). Back of all these prophetic passages lies the Mosaic witness song of Deuteronomy 32. We noted above that the situation in Zechariah 1:14,15 is to be distinguished from that in Deuteronomy 32:21, where the divine jealousy is provoked by Israel and is manifested in the infliction of the covenant curses through the agency of the foreign nations. But later in
this song a subsequent situation of a different kind is addressed. As a sequel to the exile of Israel, it is related that the nations God employed to execute his threatened curse-sanction would misunderstand this event and exalt themselves, discounting the God of captive Israel. Thereupon, out of concern for his maligned name, the Lord would bring vengeance on those nations and restore his covenant people (Deut. 32:26-43; cf. Heb. 10:30,31). This later situation is the one that is in view in Zechariah 1:14,15.
Such is the understanding of this jealous fury of God indicated by the reason assigned for it: "Because I was angry [only] for a little while, but they [the nations at ease] helped for evil" (Zech. 1:15). God had indeed been angry (cf. "very angry," Zech. 1:2) with Israel, as Moses had warned (Deut. 32:19-25), but his ultimate plans for his covenant people in Christ, in faithfulness to his promises to Abraham, were for shalom, "not for evil" (Jer. 29:11). Through Isaiah the Lord declares: "For a brief moment I forsook you, but with great mercies I will regather you. In overflowing wrath I hid my face from you for a moment, but with everlasting kindness I will show mercy to you, says Yahweh your Redeemer" (Isa. 54:7,8). Though the Lord would cast off Israel for breaking the Mosaic covenant of works, he would remember his covenant of grace with Abraham (continuous through the Mosaic economy and foundational thereto) and fulfill its promises. Beyond Israel's fall, and even through it, God purposed to bring about the fulness of Israel in Christ (cf. Isa. 27:7-13; Rom. 11:11-32). This divine purposing of good beyond the evil of the covenant curse came to expression in the Babylonian exile of Israel in the limitation of seventy years set on the judgment with a view to the subsequent restoration of the typological order. And that restoration was designed in God's master plan of salvation to tide things over until Christ, the promised seed of Abraham, came as a covenant of the people, to speak peace unto the nations.
Blind, however, to God's purpose and power, the nations used by him to accomplish his righteous will upon Israel misconstrued their role (as Moses also foretold, Deut. 32:26-43) and "helped for evil"
(Zech. 1:15).6 That is, they performed their appointed historical function, but, if not in ignorance, certainly with malicious motives and in a manner subversive of God's glory and his intentions for his people's future hope and peace. It is against this perversity that Zechariah 1:14,15 registers the Lord's jealous indignation.
Zechariah was resuming a theme found in Isaiah 47. There, Babylon is contemplated, prophetically, as guilty of cruelty to the people of God, who were delivered by him into her hands (v. 6). Thereby Babylon displayed contempt for the name of Yahweh of hosts, the holy Redeemer of Israel (v. 4), boasting that she would be "mistress of kingdoms...forever" (vv. 5,7). For this offense Babylon is threatened with God's judgment of sudden desolation (vv. 1 ff., 11).
As we have previously observed, the nations would persist in provoking this jealous wrath of the Lord, already incurred by their treatment of captive Israel, throughout the history of the typological kingdom. Whatever degree of restoration occurred at that old typological level, there was not a basic change in the relation of the world power to the covenant community. Beyond that, suppression of the community of faith continued on into the new covenant era. Even though in this new age the promised return of the Lord to his people has taken the form of the divine Angel in Jesus Christ, the beast-powers (as they are symbolically represented in the books of Daniel and Revelation) still oppress and persecute the saints. Also, the Scriptures foretell a climactic manifestation of the antichrist spirit of the nations "at ease" that will provoke God's final fury, bringing to an end at last the tensions of prolonged eschatological delay, voiced in the poignant cry, "How long?"
One prophecy of this final crisis is found in the section of the Book of Ezekiel to which we pointed for a case of God's jealousy against the nations, parallel to that in Zechariah 1:14,15 (cf. Ezek. 39:25). Ezekiel describes the advent of Gog, head of the hordes of hostile forces. At the end of the years he comes from Zaphon, the pseudomountain of God, to attack Zion, the true mountain of divine assembly (Har-Magedon), and so presents himself as a rival claimant
to Yahweh's lordship over the world (Ezek. 38:2ff.).7 Challenged by antichrist-Gog, Yahweh, in wrathful jealousy for his name, pours out fiery doom, delivering his besieged people and destroying forever the power of the satanic enemies (Ezek. 38:18ff.; cf. Rev. 6:12-17; 11:11-18; 16:17-21; 17:14b; 19:17,18,20,21; 20:9b,10). So at last God's jealous wrath is completely satisfied and his name everlastingly glorified among the nations (Ezek. 38:16,23; 39:6,7,21-29).
D. Renewal on Zion (cf. the Myrtles): Moving on from the ominous consequences of God's return (v. 16a) for the nations of the deep (vv. 14,15), the oracular response announces the blessings that must follow from the divine Presence in the midst of the myrtles (vv. 16b, 17). These mercies were the implicit corollary of God's judgment on the hostile world and that means that they, like the threatened judgment, span the entire future of redemptive history and indeed concern especially the new covenant order, including its consummate stage. Chiastically arranged, this section opens (v. 16b) and closes (v. 17c) with the promise of the rebuilding of the temple, while the middle part deals with the restoration of the rest of the theocratic community (vv. 16c and v. 17b, with a renewal of the prophetic charge to Zechariah in the center, v. 17a).
Return of the holy Presence of the Lord to dwell among his kingdom people in Jerusalem calls for the reconstruction of his royal temple-residence there. Hence the assurance, "I am returned," is at once followed by the promise, "my house shall be built in it" (v. 16b). This promise is reiterated in the closing declaration that Yahweh "will again choose Jerusalem" (v. 17b; cf. 2:12; 3:2). Jerusalem's election was anticipated in the repeated references in the Deuteronomic covenant to the place that the Lord would choose to put his name (Deut. 12:5,21; 14:24) or cause his name to dwell (Deut. 12:11; 14:23; 16:2,6,11; 26:2). God's name is his theophanic Glory. He would select a site in the promised land as a permanent dwelling and place of enthronement for his Glory-Presence, and that would then also be the location of the central altar. In due course Jerusalem was designated as the site of God's Name and the temple was constructed there. That
the choosing of Jerusalem refers specifically to the building of God's house there is also evidenced in the pairing of the two in Solomon's prayer of temple dedication: "the city you have chosen and the temple I have built for your name" (1 Kgs. 8:44,48; cf. 1 Kgs. 11:36).
Rebuilding of the temple was naturally, indeed necessarily, attended by the reconstruction of the city of Jerusalem, the place chosen as its site. Hence, immediately following the promise of the former (Zech. 1:16b) is the statement: "a line shall be stretched over Jerusalem" (v. 16c). In view here is the builder's marking out the planned perimeters of the city with a cord. Job 38:5 attributes to God the performance of this particular task in the constructing of the earth at creation. Somewhat earlier than Zechariah, Jeremiah had used the same imagery of the measuring line when he too was portraying the rebuilding of Jerusalem (Jer. 31:39) and the context makes clear that the line was being employed to establish the contemplated boundaries of the city (cf. Jer. 31:38-40).
Significantly, the setting of this parallel picture of the restoration of Jerusalem in Jeremiah is his classic prophecy of the new covenant age (cf. Jer. 31:31ff.). The new Jerusalem he speaks of is a messianic product, the eternal holy city of God's Glory-Presence provided in the cosmic re-creation at the consummation of the ages. Just as it was the Lord God who stretched the line over the earth in the beginning, so it is he who does so again as he builds the New Jerusalem in his creating of the new heaven and new earth, the event which Jeremiah, and Zechariah following him, prophesied. This heavenly city is the sum of the inheritance promised in the Abrahamic Covenant to the patriarch and his seed, and God is its architect and artisan (cf. Heb. 11:10). Agreeably, when Zechariah in his third vision resumes the theme of the rebuilding of Jerusalem, it is the divine Angel who is engaged in a related function involving a measuring line (2:1). Christ, the Angel incarnate, is the builder of the new temple city, for in the new covenant the city and temple coalesce, and Christ is the one who, with his body the church, is the temple and builds the temple.
According to the original commission given man in Eden, the
kingdom city was to expand from its cultic focus at the mountain of God outward to a global fulness. So again in the symbolic re-establishment of the Edenic order in Israel, God's kingdom reaches out from Jerusalem, the temple-city focus, and embraces the full promised land with all the satellite cities in orbit around Zion. Employing this typological symbolism to picture the restoration of the kingdom, Zechariah's vision does not stop, therefore, with the rebuilding of the temple and Jerusalem but includes the renewal of the total theocratic domain. "Thus says Yahweh of hosts: My cities shall yet overflow8 with prosperity" (1:17b). Like the other promised mercies associated with it in the oracle, this outward felicity of the kingdom envisages more than the reconstruction of the cities of Judah in Zechariah's days; it too looks ahead to the new covenant and the new heaven and earth.
Between the reference in 1:17b to the prosperity of the other theocractic cities and the closing declaration concerning the choice of Jerusalem (v. 17c) comes the promise: "Yahweh shall yet comfort Zion." Does this promise connect with the former and pertain to relief from political-economic distress through a revival of paradise-like conditions, or is it linked with the latter and thus have to do with the temple? Favoring the first option is the similar prophecy of Isaiah 51:3, where Yahweh's comforting of Zion is explained as his having compassion on her ruins and turning her wilderness into a luxuriant, joyful garden of Eden. However, the second option is favored by the structural parallelism of the last two clauses in Zechariah 1:17. If so, then Mount Zion is used here as a synonym for the city located on it, chosen to be the site of God's Presence and sanctuary-residence. Mount Zion is thus promised that it will again enjoy the status of mountain of God, seat of God's enthronement between the cherubim, assembly place of the heavenly council. Like the similar prospect in Isaiah 51:3, this promise to comfort Zion will then signify a restoration of the arrangements found in Eden, but particularly its cultic focus. It is a prophecy of the re-creation event, when Eden is not simply restored but consummated, when the mandated kingdom fulness has been realized, when indeed the cultic focus has expanded
and become co-extensive with the kingdom fulness in a cosmic temple-city on the heavenly mountain of God.
At the beginning of the oracle (Zech. 1:14) and again in the midst of the announcement of blessings (v. 17a), the Angel of the Lord (through the interpreting angel) charges Zechariah to proclaim (qara') God's words of comfort (cf. v. 13). A comparable charge to proclaim comfort (same terminology) is found in Isaiah 40:1,2. There too the leading thought is the advent of the divine Glory with recompense for his people (Isa. 40:5,9-11). This divine advent is to be heralded by a voice crying (qara') in the wilderness9 to prepare the processional way of the Lord (Isa. 40:3), a voice identified in the Gospels with John, the forerunner of Jesus (Matt. 3:3; Mark 1:3; Luke 3:4; John 1:23). Bringing together Isaiah 40 and Malachi's prophecy of the advent, Jesus identified John with the "Elijah the prophet" who was to prepare the way for the messianic "Angel of the covenant" in his appearing for judgment and salvation (Mat. 3:1ff.; 4:5 [3:23]; Matt. 11:10; Luke 7:27). And the Angel of the covenant is, of course, Jesus himself.10 Reflecting on the message of comfort in Zechariah 1:14-17 in the light of its relationship to Isaiah 40 and Malachi 3 and 4 we become more distinctly aware that the giving of a charge by the Angel of the Lord to Zechariah to proclaim that message was an act of the pre-incarnate Son, commissioning a herald of his own future advent. It was a charge to the prophet of the myrtles community in the wilderness by the deep to be a precursor of the later voice crying in the wilderness by the Jordan.
E. Persevering in Hope. That the eschatological range of Zechariah's first vision extends into our new covenant age is confirmed (as has been previously intimated) by the remainder of his prophecy. Preliminary to noting some of the salient evidence, a couple of comments on the literary structure of the book will be useful.11
First: The seven night visions are arranged in two triads around the central, fourth vision. The unitary nature of the first three visions is attested by the way the second and third visions develop in turn the two themes of the divine oracle in the opening vision, namely, God's
wrath against the nations and his restorative mercies for Jerusalem and the temple. Second: The Book of Zechariah overall is a diptych, the seven visions of 1:7-6:8 being balanced by the "burdens" of 9:1-14:21, which are an apocalyptic recasting of the visions, arranged in parallel sequence. In this pattern, the first vision is paralleled by 9:1-17.
God's choice of Jerusalem as the place of his Presence, the main affirmation of the oracle in vision 1, is again the major theme in vision 3 (2:1-13 [2:5-17]). There, Jerusalem's election as the temple site, with the concomitant restoration of the city, is portrayed as a rebuilding of Jerusalem, expanded to unprecedented dimensions (2:4), and this symbolism is interpreted in terms of an ingathering of converted Gentiles, a distinctive feature of the church age: "Many nations will join themselves to Yahweh in that day and will be my people" (2:11). Associated with this development is the total reversal in the power relationship of "Jerusalem" and "Babylon" (2:8) that does not occur until the Final Judgment. Moreover, all of this is said to serve as validation of the divine authorization of the mission of Messiah: "You will know that Yahweh of hosts has sent me unto you" (2:9,11[13,15]).
Once more we encounter the main themes of the first vision in 9:1-17, its parallel in the "burdens": God's presence and the promise to restore his house, proclamation of glad tidings to Jerusalem, and prosperous prospects for all the covenant community around Zion. The new covenant age is again the eschatological setting. God's presence takes the form of the advent of the messianic king, come to speak God's reconciling peace to the nations and to exercise his universal sovereignty (9:9,10). And the prosperity of the covenant kingdom is achieved through a final divine conquest of the hostile world, which introduces the time of sabbatical peace that knows no interruption (9:8).
Zechariah's opening vision is then to be understood as prophetic of the perfecting of the kingdom under the new covenant with its better promises and better country. Not that it failed to address the
typological realities of Zechariah's day. The promised mercies of Zechariah 1:16,17 were experienced at that level of the Mosaic Covenant in the completion of the temple, the rebuilding of Jerusalem and its walls, the resettlement of other cities and the general re-establishment of the theocratic order under the Law. But what we want to reflect on in closing is how this vision speaks to us upon whom the ends of the ages are come and particularly on the relevance for us of the central issue of the eschatological delay raised in the "How long?" of the messianic Advocate (1:12).
Our present church age is the time of the missionary harvesting of the nations that results in the swelling of "Jerusalem" into "a city inhabited as villages without walls" (2:4; cf. 1:6). Not yet, however, has the hour of Final Judgment struck when the world is shaken to its foundations, the worldly powers become a spoil to the saints, and all the habitations of God's people henceforth overflow with the prosperity of heaven's eternal glory (1:17).
As disclosed in Revelation 6:10, Christian martyrs are still raising the cry of Zechariah 1:12 during this church age: "How long, O Sovereign holy and true, do you not judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?" And the divine response is that they must wait in their intermediate state of rest while the number of the martyr-witnesses is being filled up in the course of church history on earth (Rev. 6:11). Such is again the characterization of this age of the great commission in Revelation 20, there symbolized as a thousand years. The millennium is a time when believers are being beheaded for the testimony of Jesus (Rev. 20:4)12 as they advance the gospel witness out from Jerusalem into all those nations hitherto in the darkness of satanic deception, but no longer so because Christ has bound the devil for these thousand years (Rev. 20:1-3).
Revelation 20 knows nothing of a political dominion of the church over the earth during this millennial age of the great commission. That expectation is a delusion of the prophets of theonomic postmillennialism, who, in their impatience with the way through the wilderness, have succumbed to carnal cravings for worldly power. It is revealing
that in order to defend their false forecasts they find it necessary to scorn as losers those whom the Scriptures honor as overcomers, indeed as "more than conquerors" (cf. Rom. 8:35-37), the martyr-witnesses who overcome Satan "because of the blood of the Lamb, and because of the word of their testimony, and they loved not their life unto death" (Rev. 12:11). One cannot but be appalled at the railing of certain of these reconstructionist postmillenarians against the Holy Spirit's soteric ministry thus far in the church age. What has been in the eyes of heaven a triumphant working of the Spirit of Christ, effecting the salvation of all God's elect in every nation and every generation without fail, a sovereign fulfilling of the good pleasure of God's will to the praise of his grace—this is dismissed by the pundits of this postmillennialist cult as dismal failure and a history of defeat. Nothing betrays more clearly than this blasphemous contempt for the gospel triumphs of the Spirit how alien to biblical Christianity is the ideology of theonomic reconstructionism.
Psalm and prophecy foretell a time when the conspiring nations gathered by antichrist-Gog will rage against the Lord God and his Christ, and the Almighty will vent the jealous fury of his wrath on them (Ps. 2:1ff.; Rev. 11:17,18). Meanwhile the saints witness and wait. They watch and pray, confident that their prayers ascend through their Advocate to the heavenly throne (Rev. 8:3) and evoke divine judgments that culminate at the seventh trumpet in the finishing of the mystery of God (Rev. 10:7). But until that final trumpet sounds and there is "delay no longer" (Rev. 10:6) and the time has arrived for the dead to be judged and the saints to be vindicated (Rev. 11:18), the cry "How long?" will continue to be wrung from the soul of the church. Until he who promises, "Yea, I come quickly," does come, the church in the wilderness by the demonic deep will be pleading out of the depths of its great tribulation (Rev. 7:14; cf. 1:9), "Amen: come Lord Jesus" (Rev. 22:20).
Unseen, the rider of the red horse is present in the midst of the myrtles. The Lord who is to come is the one who was and who is, who is with us now, within us now. He is within us now by the Holy Spirit
of promise, who seals us in Christ and is the earnest guaranteeing our inheritance, hoped for but not yet seen (Eph. 1:13,14). We persevere in hope, persuaded that the momentary, light affliction of this age works for us a far greater, eternal weight of glory (2 Cor. 4:17). Through Christ's holy Presence within we are strengthened with all power by his glorious might so that we may have great endurance and patience, joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light (cf. Col. 1:11,12), "to the praise of his glory" (Eph. 1:14).
South Hamilton, Massachusetts
* This is the concluding part of an article begun in Kerux 6:1 (May 1991), pp. 16-31.
1. These interrelationships between the several sections of vv. 12-17 argue against the critical denial of the oracle's integral connection with the first vision.
2. The same verb is used in summarizing the paraenesis of the pre-exilic prophets in Zechariah 1:4.
3. One of the problems with postmillennialism is its tendency to render heaven anticlimactic. G. North's attempted defense only compounds the evil. He asserts that if there is to be an historical realization of the kingdom it must be preconsummation (preferably postmillennial style). In doing so, he explicitly dehistoricizes (mythologizes?) the consummation stage of creation history (Millennialism and Social Theory [Tyler, Texas: Institute for Christian Economics, 1990], pp. 6,25,89,91, passim).
4. Note also the parallelism of God's jealousy and wrath, both directed against the same offender, in Deuteronomy 32:21 and Psalm
5. On this passage, see my Kingdom Prologue (privately published, 1989), pp. 195-96.
6. Various alternative renderings have been suggested for the verb ('zr) in this phrase, explaining it on the basis of alleged Arabic or Ugaritic equivalents or through emendation. The most plausible of these would result in the idea of multiplying or prolonging the evil. This would provide a more precise contrast to the temporal aspect expressed by me'at, "a little while."
7. See the reference to the beast from the abyss in Kerux 6:1 (May 1991), p. 28.
8. For this meaning of pws; cf. 2 Sam. 18:8; Job 40:11; Prov. 5:16. That the preposition min here means "(overflow) because of" not "(be scattered) from lack of" is clear from its use in the related picture of urban expansion in Zech. 2:4(8).
9. Incidentally, the phrase "in the wilderness" is to be taken both with what precedes, viz., the voice crying, as in LXX and NT quotes, and with what follows, viz., the preparation of the way, as is required by the parallelism with "in the desert." This is a recognized poetic device, employed elsewhere by Isaiah himself (cf., e.g., "in warfare" in Isa. 27:4).
10. In Israel's exodus march to Zion, the Angel of the covenant or Presence proceeded as king at the head of the processional way (Exod. 23:20). In the new exodus there is again the royal procession, the way prepared by prophets (and disciples, cf. the triumphal entry into Jerusalem), and it is again the Angel of the Lord, now the Lord incarnate, who is the royal leader.
11. For an extensive account see my article "The Structure of Zechariah," Journal of the Evangelical Society, 43:2 (1991): 179-93.
12. The state of the martyrs during the millennium is depicted here as one of royal-priestly rest (v. 4), as in Revelation 6:11. Clearly,
both passages deal with the same epoch.
The Resurrection Feud: A Review Article
Norman L. Geisler. The Battle for the Resurrection. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1989, 224 pp., $10.95 paper. ISBN: 0-8407-3035-7.
Murray J. Harris. From Grave to Glory. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1990, 493 pp., $19.95 paper. ISBN: 0-310-51991-8.
"'Do you now believe that Christ's resurrection body was a literal, physical body?' While firmly believing that the same physical body of Jesus that had been buried was raised from the dead, I was reluctant to answer with an unqualified 'Yes' because the resurrection body of Jesus clearly had properties that were not true of a mortal, physical body." This query with response is found on p. 357 of Murray Harris's recent book and illustrates the controversy between him and Norman Geisler.
Trinity Evangelical Seminary is not the place where you would expect a denial of the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ so it may be a surprise to the reader that Geisler, formerly of that institution, is accusing the seminary of laxity in this regard. Harris is a tenured professor of this school. Historically, the Trinity apologetic has centered around arguments about Jesus' bodily resurrection. The name John W. Montgomery readily comes to mind in this regard.
This review article cannot concern itself with the weakness of such an apologetic method, but it is probably fair to say that the apologetic question is a major issue for Geisler who feels that this is "The Battle for the Resurrection" (the title of his recent book). Geisler finds the historical verifiability of a risen Jesus hard to square with a risen Jesus who is essentially invisible. If the body of the risen Jesus can be regarded as a different body than one in which he suffered, then additional problems of identity and what is being verified emerge (Battle, p.36). He has used the analogy of the "Battle for the Bible" in describing the significance of the current conflict. It seems to be a strained analogy unless one is closely tied to a resurrection-centered apologetic. One irony of the perceived conflict is that it began with Murray Harris defending his version of the evangelical view against a liberal bishop in England.
Harris's recent book (From Grave to Glory) is a more refined product than Geisler's. He demonstrates a certain ease in using the Greek language and tries to get all the data on the table. Geisler, on the other hand, appears a bit ham-handed in treating Harris's position. He could acknowledge the qualified nature of Harris's statements, but instead he tends to present the worst-case interpretation of Harris. This naturally leads Harris to feel rather abused by Geisler. Here is an example of how differently a position can be presented: "Some, like professor Murray Harris, even go so far as to say that believers receive their new resurrection bodies at death, while their material bodies are obviously still in the graves" (Battle, p. 105).
"For Paul, the spiritual body was not simply a state of his 'inner man' at the time of his death. It was not a case merely of the
appearance at death of an already formed but concealed spiritual body, but of the acceleration and completion of a process by which the spiritual body was already being formed inwardly. This is not to imply that bodily resurrection is progressive, but it is to assert that Paul regarded resurrection not as a creatio ex nihilo, a sudden divine operation unrelated to the past, but as the fulfillment of spiritual processes begun at regeneration. That Paul could regard the spiritual body as a future gift given by God (2Co 5:1) did not prevent his viewing it as being created by God within man (cf. 2Co 3:18). From one point of view it will come by outward investiture; from another point of view it will come by inward transformation. As the result of the final convulsion of resurrection, the butterfly of the spiritual body will emerge from the chrysalis of the 'inward man'" (Grave, p. 204).
"As the inner man is continually renewed and progressively transformed into the image of Christ (2Co 3:18), as he becomes more and more responsive to the Spirit of God, at the same time this spiritual body is being progressively formed within the believer" (Grave, p. 205).
These last quotations show that Harris has a way of leaving things ambiguous and making statements that raise red flags. Unnecessary ambiguities are not easily tolerated and one suspects that Harris at times has a fondness for ambiguity that verges on methodology. To some, it may come across as proof that we are in the presence of a real exegete with scholarly integrity rather than a simplistic dogmatician. For this reviewer, it appeared as a failure to be clear when a controversy was well under way. Geisler's oversimplifications of Harris become more understandable in this light, if not justified. At the beginning of this review we presented the question Geisler put to Harris in the interest of clarity. It is not a question whether Christ presently has a mortal physical body with the same properties that body had prior to his resurrection. It is simply a question about a physical body. If a definition of "physical" is needed, it might have been supplied at the outset. Instead, Geisler (and the reader) gets a "yes and no" answer and is then forced to piece together a concept
from statements in Harris. Geisler's characterizations might have been prevented by clarity on Harris's part.
Review articles in The Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society (September 1990) debate whether Geisler or Harris is more correct in their understanding of the resurrection. Geisler can be said to favor the continuity emphasis in defining the relationship between the body that is sown in death and raised in glory. Harris, when compared with Geisler, would emphasize discontinuity. With this generalization in mind, we define our criticism of the two men as follows.
1. Geisler has a propensity toward a literalism which reduces the mysterious realities (mysterious to earthdwellers at least) of the new creation to the known realities of the first creation. An example of this propensity is Geisler's treatment of 1 Cor. 6:13).
2. Harris has a propensity toward unnecessary ambiguity (see above). This ambiguity attempts to deal with the mystery which Geisler reduces, but leaves doors open for an unwarranted emphasis on discontinuity. Harris also occasionally tries to get behind texts in a dubious way. In describing some texts as possible accommodations, he seeks a more basic reality. An example of unwarranted discontinuity is his hesitancy to use the word "physical" in connection with resurrection. He emphasizes sameness of personality (as distinct from material) to affirm continuity between the Christ that died and the Christ that was raised. An example of trying to get behind the text is Harris's view of Christ's ascension. An example of dangerous dualism is Harris's view of the New Creation.
3. A common propensity or fault in both authors is to focus too much on the ontology of the resurrection. A failure to consider Reformed sources more seriously has left the two combatants on a dark battle field. Both authors reject a rigorous "particle view" of continuity as necessary to a real bodily resurrection, but because
neither work from a clear view of organic unity, both are stuck defining their views with respect to the degree they differ from a particle view. In addition, both define "spiritual body" in mainly anthropological terms rather than the pneumatological-eschatological way in which Geerhardus Vos has interpreted 1 Cor. 15:44. The result is that both authors fail to capture the richness of what the resurrection means, although Harris seems to do better than Geisler in pointing to some of the eschatological new creation significance embodied in the resurrection. Still, his analysis lacks the elegant and complex unity of Vos's thought.
The question of whether Murray Harris is orthodox or not becomes more complicated for the Reformed theologian, since neither he nor Geisler operate within the same rich context of meaning that is found in the Westminster school of apologetics, philosophy and eschatology. There are troublesome statements to be found in Harris. The ambiguity is probably a reflection of the man's own sincerity and orthodox desires. It must be remembered that it was his work defending the resurrection that brought on this "in house" controversy. A sincere man can still hold a dangerous position, however. Harris's ambiguity is frustrating and dangerous in its tendency. Whatever ambiguity results from purely semantic flexibility does not negate a semantic stubbornness in such matters, even if every academic question should not become a matter of confessional subscription.
Specific Texts and Issues
I. 1 Corinthians 6:13 and Pauline ethics
Though philosophic motives often color the background and meaning of terms that are used, we dare not avoid the text of Scripture in shaping our arguments. In this regard, a more detailed consideration of texts would have helped both theologians. Geisler's weakness is exemplified in his treatment of 1 Cor. 6:13 (Battle, p. 121).
Geisler simply dismisses the clear force of this text, i.e., that there
will be an anatomical-physiological change in the future body of the believer. He views the destruction of food and stomach as something God does through the process of death. An implication of this interpretation would be that food and stomach do not stay destroyed when the resurrection occurs. An additional consideration for Geisler is that Jesus was able to eat after his resurrection, though there was no evidence that he needed to do so.
Whatever mysteries exist about how Jesus ate food with his resurrection body, it is not necessary to assume he possessed the same sort of anatomical systems and laws of physiology that existed prior to his death. Jesus' eating was to make a simple point—he was not a ghost. Trying to prove something about resurrection biology from the text is overextending the passage.
Geisler's argument that the stomach and food are destroyed by death ignores the structure of Pauline argumentation. It is this argumentation that has a parallel in 1 Cor. 13:10. Pauline ethics are grounded in the eschatology of what we are in Christ and what our ultimate destiny in Christ is. The current age is temporary and passing away. Therefore this world is to be used in service of the age to come and not sought as an intrinsic value. This explains the apostle's advice to remain single (1 Cor. 7), his utilitarian view of spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12-14) and his willingness to give up the pleasing food which God himself designed for good use in this creation. Geisler does not develop his argument, but if we were to do this for him, it would simply be that death relativizes the value of earthly things. Though containing a grain of truth, this moves Geisler more toward Stoicism than the eschatological ethics in Paul's thinking. Though Paul's concern moves from eating to fornication, his argument continues with an eschatological new creation basis. This is different from the kind of creation ordinance argument that Jesus used to forbid divorce. Fornication is unfitting because it creates unions that are not compatible with the special union we have with Christ in his resurrection. Instead of putting asunder an earthly marriage union, fornication unlawfully contends with our union in Christ.
Because ontology controls Geisler's thinking, Pauline eschatology gets lost in the process. Geisler's concern for continuity, though laudable, lets a philosophic continuity displace a biblical-eschatological continuity.
II. Harris's Use of Language
A regular source of conflict between exegetes and systematic theologians is the fluidity of language. The same words can be used with different senses. Words used as technical theological terms may have somewhat different meanings from Scripture and may even differ in meaning within the Bible. When this fluidity is not recognized or dealt with, ambiguity results and this in turn allows for distortion or concealment of one's position.
Very near the end of the book (Grave, p. 405). Harris makes this observation: "It will thus be clear that I am using the terms material and immaterial in a popular, not a philosophical sense. In reference to bodies, material means "physical" or "fleshly," and immaterial means "nonphysical" or "nonfleshly". But from a philosophical standpoint, any kind of human body, whether physical or spiritual, is "material" in the sense that it has a particular "form" behind which lies "substance" or "matter."
The problem is that Harris is not clear in his use of language. In the context of this quotation, he seems to be saying that Jesus does in fact possess a material body (philosophically speaking), but that when he appears to earthlings his body is presented in a material mode (popularly speaking) so that it can be touched and seen (which would not otherwise be possible). This distinction of uses comes near the end of his book and is an awkward distinction at best. Such a distinction may be clear to Harris, but it is wishful thinking to expect the reader to immediately see his different intentions.
Harris is grappling with limitations in human language to express transcendent realities and mysteries. He might be more sensitive to mystery at this point than Geisler is; however confused language usage
is no real solution. When we come to Harris's view of the ascension, we see a discontentment with simply letting the ordinary historical account present this mystery. It seems that Harris wants to get "behind" the text. He treats texts regarding the ascension as accommodations to human weakness. There seems to be a public ascension over against a "real" ascension.
Geisler does not deal much with the ascension. Perhaps Harris has delineated his views more fully since Geisler's book appeared. In any event, Harris adopts some ideas about the ascension which ignore a rather plain understanding of Jn. 20:17. He wants to make the event forty days after Easter a "dramatization" or "parable" (see Grave, p. 180, et. al.) which can be seen of his exaltation to the right hand. The implication is that Jesus actually lived at the right hand of God in heaven during the forty days after his resurrection and that his appearances are local visits, so to speak. The ascension that is visible in Acts 1 simply marks a change in Jesus' policy of appearing. This view replaces a redemptive-historically defined movement with ontological speculation about where Jesus lived during the forty days while he was not making appearances. As such it demonstrates a tendency to try and get "behind the appearances." The public ascension becomes a condescension to human finitude.
The timing of the ascension and manner of its occurrence may well contain condescension elements, but that does not prove that it (i.e., the ascension of Acts 1) is not the "essential" ascension into heaven. The significance of Harris's position here is twofold. First, it confirms our observation that he has a tendency to get more profound than the ordinary data of the text. We get a dualism of ascension an sich ("in itself") and ascension as phenomenal. Second, his interpretation complicates the relationship of the ascension to Pentecost with the eschatologically significant detail of Christ's receiving the promise of the Father prior to pouring this gift out on the church (Acts 2:33). The ontology of Christ's post-resurrection existence becomes more significant than the soteriology of redemptive-historical development in Harris's construction of the ascension.
Finally, Harris's treatment of the New Creation provides an additional case of the use of dualistic language which he makes no attempt to resolve, despite significant theological consequences.
Harris seems to have some awareness of the two-age model that Vos and others have elaborated. He states: "In the present age or in the overlap of the ages believers are being progressively transformed into the image of Christ" (Grave, p. 230).
Despite this comment, one wonders how much control this insight has on his thinking. One section of his book is called "New Creation or Renewed Creation" (p. 248). He asks "what relation do the 'new heavens and new earth' (Isa 65:17; 2Pe 3:13; Rev 21:1) bear to the old heavens and earth? Will the universe attain its God-appointed destiny by being transformed or by being replaced?" (pp. 248-49).
At first Harris seems to reject annihilationism: "We have seen from Romans 8 that creation's destiny is release from decay, not annihilation" (p. 250). Still, Harris wants to entertain ambivalence by retaining "both approaches" (release and annihilation?). He sees a relationship between the ambiguous change creation will undergo and the kind of change physical bodies will undergo in the resurrection. The issue of continuity becomes crucial and hence is one Geisler brings up in the controversy. Harris can acknowledge continuity to Jesus' resurrection body with the pre-resurrection body, but feels believers have no similar claim of continuity (decay and natural processes set in). Harris's closing statement on this motif is not reassuring: "But precisely how God will bring in the new heaven and earth is not clear, whether after subjugation or after annihilation, whether by transformation or by replacement" (Grave, p. 252).
We have here an intentional ambiguity or dualism which is not without danger. Harris may cry foul for being misrepresented, but must bear some fault himself when his statements go two directions at once and one direction is unorthodox. When the New Testament uses the word "new" whether it be "new man", "new creation", or "new heavens and earth" the idea is to focus on newness of life and not
newness of substance. Change obviously is required in the term but the eschatology of First and Last, Old and New is what gives such terms their power. This opens the way for us to consider something of the way in which Reformed thought approaches such problems without pretending to exhaust their mystery.
III. Harris and Geisler in the Reformed Perspective
A. Particle continuity vs. organic unity
There are two issues that one faces in a discussion of resurrection. Harris quite clearly and correctly notes that one type of resurrection is simply a reanimation of a dead corpse to the type of life that was enjoyed prior to death. The other type of resurrection entails a dramatic transformation to a new quality of life that is no longer vulnerable to death. In applying the two creation motif to our resurrection concepts, we could say that simple reanimation, without transformation, is a type of miracle that is defined in first creation terms. Normal breathing and blood circulation are restored; normal eating meets normal nutritional needs. The transforming resurrection, however, is harder to define in first creation terms because it is fitted to the realities of the new creation. Harris would say it is fitted to the "ecology" of heaven. Earthly food then is used to a different purpose than nutrition by Jesus. It is not necessary for life-nurture. Rather, it is an instrument of demonstrating a truth about Jesus' reality.
Since we are limited to using first creation concepts and words for the mysterious realities of the new and heavenly creation, we are faced with a problem of continuity at the outset. The difference between Harris and Geisler seems to be the degree to which they depart from a "particle view" of continuity when describing the physical continuity or discontinuity of the body sown and the body that is raised. For Harris the same personality is what counts. No doubt Geisler would agree that there must be the same personality, but he would also insist that there must be some sameness of substance. Geisler's view of
continuity then includes personality plus substance. Harris seems to suggest that sameness of substance is not necessary to any degree. In the case of Jesus, there was some sameness as a result of the fact that his body did not have time to decay, even then, the sameness of substance between Jesus' body sown and raised is relative. Harris would maintain that for believers, the sameness of substance is not part of the continuity in their pro- and post-resurrection bodies. A number of practical problems (e.g., cannibalism) suggests how same substance arguments would not work for believers. For Harris, the logic of this position is that death's destruction of the human body removes the continuity.
The transformation aspect of the body raises a different question about continuity. If mere living brings changes in our substantial constitution, what are we to say about the renewed resurrection body? Continuity is problematic on several levels and each needs to be kept distinct for the sake of clarity.
It helps to begin with consideration of a "simple" reanimation type of resurrection (cf. Lazarus) as the best place to focus on the problem of continuity caused by decay. The reanimation of Lazarus reintroduces him to the world of first creation with human biology and its processes of growth and death. Within this world, the changes an organism experiences by way of growth do not change its organic unity. This growth begins at conception and so the whole being is within the seed. This provides a way out of the "same substance" problem because it is a dilemma that exits while we yet live and grow. There is a continuity of organic structure in which different particles participate over time.
With this in mind, we note that there is no reason a single cell of a person could not be reassembled from its original "particles". This could be done without prejudice to having a single cell of other persons being similarly reconstituted. There are, after all, multitudes of cells at any single time in one person, let alone over a lifetime. We know that complex forms develop from single cells, taking substance from the environment as they grow and divide. It is therefore possible
to have real physical continuity between a decayed body and one that is raised later, even if that real continuity begins with only one cell. Any human being is simultaneously one person and at one with the rest of creation. He is organically distinct and separate while materially interrelated with the rest of creation. This observation also fits with the science we understand governing the first creation.
However, the mystery of the resurrection transformation forces us to enter a caveat. If our resurrection body lacks some normal organs (e.g., stomach, 1 Cor.6:13) as well as genetic deformity, then continuity of the body sown and raised is not to be found in a perfectly identical genetic code which survives. There is an obvious transformation from earthly to heavenly that our science is not capable of explaining. Cell division and DNA dynamics can only illustrate how organic continuity is possible between a body that is sown and a body that is reanimated. Furthermore, the mystery of the feeding of the 5000 is another illustration where normal cell science cannot explain a "growth" miracle of God. The point remains that this miracle is not a creation ex nihilo, nor are we given the impression that the food multiplication is creation out of something essentially different.
If Harris simply indicated that real physical continuity and personal continuity exists between the bodies of the believers who die and the bodies that are raised, without trying to solve or explain the mystery, it would be sufficient. Instead he seems to say that such continuity does not exist at all in a meaningful way.
B. Spiritual Body and 1 Corinthians 15
Harris's book has more to offer in textual analysis than Geisler's, but could have profited from a more serious interaction with the material of Geerhardus Vos and Richard Gaffin. Vos gets an entry in the bibliography and Gaffin gets that plus a footnote. Harris touches on most of the elements these men have presented, but he does not see the structure of Pauline thought with the same clarity. To demonstrate this point, it is helpful to examine interpretations of a crucial text in the controversy, viz, 1 Cor. 15:44.
It is possible to find passages where Geisler and Harris agree on the meaning of the term "spiritual body," even though Harris may not consistently adhere to a non-metaphysical limitation. Note:
GEISLER: "In addition to the physical nature of the resurrection body, evangelicals have also affirmed its immortal and imperishable dimension (1 Corinthians 15:42f.), because it is a body dominated by the spirit (soma pnuematikon, see I Cor. 15:44)" (Battle, p. 41). "A 'spiritual' body denotes an immortal one, not an immaterial one. A 'spiritual' body is one dominated by the spirit, not one devoid of matter. The Greek word pneumatikos (translated 'spiritual' here) means a body directed by the spirit, as opposed to one under the domination of the flesh" (p. 109).
HARRIS: "...because Greek adjectives ending in -ikos carry a functional or ethical meaning..., it is preferable to understand pneumatikos in the sense 'animated and guided by the spirit [pneuma],' with the spirit as the organizing or governing principle. This 'spirit' could be the Spirit of God but more probably is the human spirit as revitalized by the divine Spirit" (Grave, p. 195).
In contrast, we find Vos moving in another direction.
VOS: "1 Cor. xv. 42-49 contrasts the two bodies that belong to the preeschatological and the eschatological states successively. The former is characterized as psuchikon, the latter as pneumatikon. This adjective pneumatikon expresses the quality of the body in the eschatological state. Every thought of immaterialness, or etherealness or absence of physical density ought to be kept carefully removed from the term. Whatever in regard to such qualifications may or may not be involved; it is certain that such traits, if existing, are not described here by the adjective in question...Paul means to characterize the resurrection-state as the state in which the Pneuma rules" (Pauline Eschatology, pp. 166-67).
That Vos means Holy Spirit is clear when he emphasizes the need to capitalize the word to avoid misunderstanding.
From these citations, we see that both Geisler and Harris are hung up on anthropology to some extent. Where allowance is given for the possibility that the Holy Spirit is in view in the term "spiritual body", this is far too weak a concession to help gain the proper perspective. In the controversy between Geisler and Harris, the term "spiritual body" exercises more control than I think they realize, and so it becomes important to get the right interpretation of the expression. Harris's analysis even has a gnostic sound to it: "A physical or 'soulish' body, that is, a body animated and controlled by the psyche (soul) is sown, and a spiritual body, a body animated and controlled by the pneuma (spirit) will be raised up" (Grave, p. 192).
Vos directs us away from anthropology per se and places two Adams before us, each with their respective animating life principles. These two men are the source of anthropological insight which is shaped by eschatology.
Vos does not expend a great deal of time proving from a lexicon that Pneuma here refers to the Holy Spirit. It is this insight which makes Pauline eschatology intelligible. What could spiritual food and spiritual drink mean in 1 Cor. 10 if we lacked a doctrine of the Holy Spirit? The use of anthropological categories quickly degenerates into metaphysics. Hence Harris seems to get metaphysical capital out of the expression "spiritual body" even though he explicitly denies he means some kind of spiritual substance. "Jesus of Nazareth himself actually rose from the dead in a spiritual body, for the body that is to be does not share in 'flesh and blood"' (Grave, Harris's letter to Geisler, p. 358). "Jesus was no longer bound by material or space limitations (e.g. John 20:19, 26), his essential state was one of invisibility and therefore immateriality (Luke 24:31, 36) and he could materialize and therefore be localized at will...The resurrection marked Jesus' entrance upon a spiritual mode of existence, or to borrow Paul's expression, his acquisition of a 'spiritual body"' (Grave, Archer quoting Harris, pp. 360-61).
At this point, I have a bit of misgiving about concluding that our Lord's resurrection body was or is essentially immaterial—which is
what Harris seems to be saying here. To my mind, the term 'spiritual body' implies a different sort of material than that which we humans now possess in our physical bodies (Grave, Archer commenting while defending Harris, p. 361).
The differences between Geisler and Harris can come across as a profitless squabble about words and mysteries about which we have little certainty. Taken in a charitable reading, Harris can be seen as orthodox but unclear in his manner of expression. For Reformed believers, however, these two works demonstrate how skewed exegesis becomes when it is governed by apologetic concerns that ignore the large Biblical-theological contours of Scriptural teaching. The two-age construction of which Harris seems vaguely aware is something Vos places at the beginning of his work, The Pauline Eschatology: This deeply ingrained structure may be found to dominate Pauline ethics. The real church battles of today center in gender issues. It is the ability to relate first creation ethics and new creation ethics that is of crying importance. Vos can help us here because his view of resurrection and eschatology avoids metaphysical speculation. Even the categories of Reformed theologies have been looked at in new ways because of this profound eschatology Vos finds in the New Testament (e.g., the ordo salutis, cf. Richard Gaffin's work). As a result, what Harris and Geisler have produced will not be nearly so useful in the pulpit as what Vos has provided. Indeed, Vos's insights are so rich, they must be delivered in measured doses. This brings us full circle to Geisler's interests and a most interesting question with which to close. What is the relationship of eschatology and resurrection to apologetics? More to the point, has not the resurrection of Jesus Christ proven the limits of present human reasoning even as it gives us meaning?