Dying and Rising with Christ

One of the more stimulating reads from 2012 was for me a short 130-page book written 45 years ago by Robert Tannehill, Dying and Rising with Christ. For its brevity the book punches hard and achieves a sketch of the sweeping eschatological structure in Paul’s writings, something I appreciate in the writings of G. K. Beale.

Tannehill seems to make a few points about the Christian life that are worth highlighting here. First, the book is strong on the large-scale eschatological framework of the Christian life in Paul, as you can see on page 30:

Christ’s cross puts an end to the dominion of sin, and so to the “old man.” It is an inclusive event, for the existence of men was bound up with this old aeon, and what puts an end to it also puts an end to them as men of the old aeon. When Paul speaks of dying and rising with Christ, and associates it, as he does here, with the end of the old dominion and the foundation of the new, it is clear that he is thinking of the death and resurrection of Christ as eschatological events. And because they are eschatological events, affecting the old dominion as a whole, they are also inclusive events.

But I think Tannehill’s work is especially valuable on the flip side of our entrance into the new aeon, in our battle with the tug and pull of the old aeon in the ongoing “eschatological discord” (Beale). Tannehill explains the discord on page 127:

The connection which we have noted between dying and rising with Christ and Paul’s eschatology provides the key to understanding the relation between dying with Christ as a past event and as a continuing aspect of Christian existence. Through dying with Christ the Christian has been released from the old world and has entered the new. If this were all that Paul wished to say about God’s eschatological act, he could only speak of dying with Christ as something which has already happened to the Christians. But the old world has not yet accepted God’s judgment of it and claim upon it, and the Christian is still bound to this old world through his present body.

This means that the Christian is still exposed to the powers of the old aeon. Therefore, the new existence which is based upon the past death with Christ takes on the form of a continuing dying with Christ. To be sure, Paul speaks of dying with Christ as a present process particularly, though not exclusively, in connection with suffering. However, he makes clear that the dying with Christ which takes place in suffering is also a dying to the old world, the world of “flesh” and of trust in self. It is because the decisive break with the old world must continually be maintained and affirmed that what happened to the Christian in the death of Christ also determines the present structure of his life, so that dying with Christ is not only the basis of the new dominion but remains a present reality within it.

Tannehill seems to be on to something here, and he’s not the only one to point this out. For a further discussion on this dual dynamic of our dying and rising with Christ, and how these twin realities shape our perception of our daily Christian lives, see the second half of my recent interview with Constantine Campbell in the Authors on the Line series (iTunes). And if you are looking for a brilliant chapter on the eschatological shape of the Christian life, see Beale’s A New Testament Biblical Theology, pages 835–870.

Working Out What God Works In

Philippians 2:12–13:

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied (Eerdmans, 1955), pp. 148-149:

God’s working in us is not suspended because we work, nor our working suspended because God works. Neither is the relation strictly one of co-operation as if God did his part and we did ours so that the conjunction or coordination of both produced the required result.

God works in us and we also work. But the relation is that because God works we work. All working out of salvation on our part is the effect of God’s working in us, not the willing to the exclusion of the doing and not the doing to the exclusion of the willing, but both the willing and the doing…. The more persistently active we are in working, the more persuaded we may be that all the energizing grace and power is of God.

Greg Beale, A New Testament Biblical Theology, as quoted in the pre-pub manuscript:

True saints should be psychologically motivated to fulfill God’s precepts because they know that God has given them the power to do so. … This kind of motivation is comparable to my neighbor’s desire to remove snow from his driveway. He has a fine snow-blower and gets his driveway cleaned off quickly. On the other hand, I do not own a snow-blower but have only a rusty snow shovel. When it snows a few inches, I have no desire to go out and shovel the snow. After it keeps on snowing and I still don’t go out to clear it off, my wife gives me a polite implied command by way of questioning, ‘when are you going to shovel the driveway?’ But I have no desire to respond positively to her command. I continue to let the snow build up until after the snow has finished falling, and then I go out rather reluctantly to shovel. I don’t have the motivation to clear off the snow because I don’t have the power to do it effectively. On the other hand, my neighbor has all the desire in the world because he has the power to remove the snow effectively. When one has the power to do something, the motivation for doing it follows.

The Temple of Eden

In his book The Temple and the Church’s Mission (IVP/Apollos, 2004), G. K. Beale argues that the Garden of Eden was the “first archetypal temple.” He provides 14 conceptual and linguistic parallels between Eden and future tabernacle/temple structures. My brief summary:

1. The Garden as the unique place of God’s presence. Eden was the place where God walked back and forth with man, paralleled this with later references to the Tabernacle (Gen. 3:8 with Lev. 26:12, Deut. 23:14; 2 Sam. 7:6–7).

2. The Garden as the place of the first priest. Adam was placed in the garden to “cultivate and keep it” (Gen. 2:15). Taken alone, “cultivation” has obvious agricultural meaning. But this pair of terms (“cultivate/keep” also translated “serve/guard”) is used elsewhere in the OT to describe the work of the priest (Num. 3:7–8; 8:25–26; 18:5–6; 1 Chr. 23:32; Ezek. 44:14). Thus “the task of Adam in Genesis 2:15 included more than mere spadework in the dirt of a garden. It is apparently that priestly obligations in Israel’s later temple included the duty of ‘guarding’ unclean things from entering (cf. Num. 3:6–7, 32, 38; 18:1–7), and this appears to be relevant for Adam, especially in view of the unclean creature lurking on the perimeter of the Garden and who then enters” (p. 69).

3. The Garden as the place of the first guarding cherubim. After sin was introduced into the garden, Adam and Eve are barred from the tree of life by cherubim. This reveals that Adam’s work included more than gardening—he was to protect the garden from evil and uncleanness. (Gen. 3:24 with Ex. 25:18–22; 1 Kgs. 6:29-35, 8:6–7; Ezek. 28:14–16, 41:18).

4. The Garden as the place of the first arboreal lampstand. Likely, the Tree of Life provides the model for the lampstand placed directly outside the holy of holies (Ex. 25:31–36).

5. The Garden as formative for garden imagery in Israel’s temple. Temple references in the OT possess botanical, garden-like features (1 Kgs. 6:18, 29, 32; 7:20–26, 42, 47; Zech. 1:8–11; Ps. 74:3–7; 52:8; 92:13–15; Lam. 2:6; Isa. 60:13, 21).

6. Eden as the first source of water. Like Eden, the eschatological temples feature a source of water (Gen. 2:10 with Ezek. 47:1–12; Rev. 21:1–2).

7. The Garden as the place of precious stones. Note the correlation between precious stones in Eden and the building materials of the later tabernacle and temple (Gen. 2:12 with 1 Kgs. 6:20–22, Ex. 25:7, 11–39; 28:6–27; 1 Chr. 29:2).

8. The Garden as the place of the first mountain. Eden was situated upon a mountain (Ezek. 28:14, 16) just like Mount Zion (Ex. 15:17) and the eschatological temple (Ezek. 40:2; 43:12; Rev. 21:10).

9. The Garden as the first place of wisdom. “The ark in the holy of holies, which contained the Law (that led to wisdom) echoes the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (that also led to wisdom). Both the touching of the ark and the partaking of the tree’s fruit resulted in death” (pp. 73–74).

10. The Garden as the first place with an eastern facing entrance. Like the future tabernacle and temples, Eden was entered from the east (Gen. 3:24 with Ezek. 40:6).

11. The Garden as part of a tripartite sacred structure. Genesis 2:10 reveals that “a river flowed out of Eden to water the garden.” This reference formally distinguishes Eden from the garden. From this Beale builds the case that Eden and its adjoining garden “formed two distinct regions” (p. 74). He sees here tripartite degrees of holiness, similar to the temple complex, comprised of (a) the region outside the garden (the outer court); (b) the garden representing a sacred place (the holy place); and (c) Eden, where God dwells (the holy of holies).

12. Ezekiel’s view of the Garden of Eden as the first sanctuary. In Ezekiel 28:13–18, the prophet draws a number of parallels between Eden and Israel’s tabernacle/temple. Specifically, the prophet references Eden as a sanctuary and pictures Adam dressed as a priest (v. 13). And “Ezekiel 28:18 is probably, therefore, the most explicit place anywhere in canonical literature where the Garden of Eden is called a temple” (pp. 75-76).

13. The Ancient Near Eastern concept of temples in association with garden-like features. “Gardens not untypically were part of temple complexes in the Ancient Near East” (p. 76).

14. Early Judaism’s view of the garden as the first sanctuary. Beale provides evidence from the non-canonical Jewish literature to further prove that “Judaism in various ways also understood the Garden to be the first sanctuary in line with the above Old Testament evidence” (p. 27).

Conclusion: “The cumulative effect of the preceding parallels between the Garden of Genesis 2 and Israel’s tabernacle and temple indicates that Eden was the first archetypal temple, upon which all of Israel’s temples were based” (pp. 79-80).

Read more on these conceptual and linguistic parallels on pages 66–80 of Beale’s The Temple and the Church’s Mission: A Biblical Theology of the Dwelling Place of God (IVP/Apollos, 2004).