God is Judge Chapter 25

God is Judge

Chapter 25

A Commentary on the book of Daniel

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Final Conclusion

 

The ‘Seventy Prophecy’ is temple oriented and the expected eschatological Atonement and anointing of the Most Holy at the end of the age pre-supposes that there is a Sanctuary even after 490 years of desolations.   However, unlike Ezekiel, the book of Daniel does not end with a vision of the temple but a description of a period of great tribulation culminating in resurrection and judgement.

 

It is instructive to inquire why Ezekiel and Daniel have such different endings. Many conservative scholars regard Ezekiel’s temple as an eschatological temple that is yet to be built. Although it is not the intention to offer a commentary on Ezekiel’s temple, the question that has been posed merits a short digression. Commenting on the disregard for topographic and historical realities as well as the dimensions of the temple, Daniel Block remarks, “All in all Ezekiel’s scheme appears highly contrived, casting doubt on any interpretation that expects a literal fulfilment of his plan.” Block adds, “It seems best to interpret [Ezekiel] chs. 40-48 ideationally. The issue for the prophet is not physically geography but spiritual realities.” [1] Thomas Renz concurs with his observation that, “A main feature of this new world is that the sacred and the profane are clearly demarcated. This must also be the reason for the two dimensional nature of the architectural plan in the vision, which has given rise to the use of the term ‘blueprint.’[2] Vertical measurements are not mentioned, because height is not    Continued  ˃

 

[1] Daniel Isaac Block, The Book of Ezekiel: chapters 25-48, Volume 2,(Wm. B. Eerdmans publishing,1998),505,502

[2] “The only vertical measurement included in the vision (in 40:5) shows the qualitative change from holy to common. It is noteworthy that the temple complex takes over the functions of a city (cf. 40:2)......” Thomas Renz, The rhetorical function of the book of Ezekiel,(Brill, Leiden: Boston,1999),123

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important in marking boundaries” [3]……  Renz concludes that, “The restructuring of space in the new society will make Israel ashamed of her past iniquities which have necessitated the stricter regulations concerning areas, boundaries and access to territory (43:10-12). The vision is an intentional effort to control access to space and in this sense “territorial rhetoric”.[4] 

 

Other objections to a literal reading are that, “….the revelation is not revealed to the king (as the temple builder), but to a prophet…” (Renz, 1999:122) and, “Nowhere is anyone commanded to build it. The man with the measuring line takes Ezekiel on a tour of an existing structure already made”. (Block, 1998:505) Moreover, as noted by Alexander, a messianic interpretation [of Ezek. chs. 40-48] is excluded by the facts that natural children are envisaged for the prince (Ezek 46:16) and, even more important, that he must make a sin offering for himself (45:22).[5] Block (1998:505) presents the following summary; “Ezekiel’s final vision presents a lofty spiritual ideal: Where God is, there is Zion. Where God is, there is order and the fulfilment of all his promises. Furthermore, where the presence of God is recognized, there is purity and holiness. Ezekiel hereby lays the foundation for the Pauline spiritualization of the temple. Under the new covenant even Gentiles’ communities may be transformed into the living temple of God (1 Cor.3:16-17). Moreover, through the indwelling presence of the Spirit of God, individual Christians become temples, residences of deity (1 Cor. 6:19)”.

 

[3] Thomas Renz,Ezekiel,122

[4] Thomas Renz draws heavily on D. L. Stevenson’s work on “territorial rhetoric”: “My thesis is that the Vision of Transformation is territorial rhetoric produced in the context of the Babylonian exile to restructure the society of Israel by asserting yhwh’s territorial claim as the only King of Israel”. D. L. Stevenson, The Vision of Transformation: The Territorial Rhetoric of Ezekiel 40-48, (SBLDS 154; Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1996),3

[5] Ralph H. Alexander, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary Vol. 6,(Grand Rapids: Zondervan 1986),974

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In this sense Daniel and Ezekiel end on the same note. The temple that is envisioned is spiritualized. For Daniel the temple becomes a resurrected community at the end of the age. Block notes that, “Closer adherence to Ezekiel is evident in early Christian writings, most notably Rev.21-22, which displays a series of important links with our texts.”[6]  Moreover, the ‘time of trouble’ of Daniel 12:1 corresponds with the end of the “Seals” in Revelation 5-7, where we encounter, “…the ones who come out of the great tribulation” (Rev. 7:14). The ‘great tribulation’ is the three-and-one-half year Roman war that precipitates the dispersion of the Jewish nation.   The annunciation of a new temple (the birth of Christ) opens the last seventy of Daniel’s 490 years and the removal of the Jewish temple closes the same period, thus confirming the New Covenant. This parallel reading of Revelation/Daniel understands both prophecies as discontinuous – for although both prophecies were flexible enough to allow a complete outworking in the first century,[7] this was disallowed by the unfaithfulness of the Jewish nation and corruption of the church by Judaisers. The dispersion of the Jewish nation in AD 70 interrupted the prophetic programme which could only recommence with the return of the Diaspora from their prolonged exile. The prophetic interruptus is therefore to be sought in the space between the first century Seals and last days Trumpets, which both conclude with a three-and-a-half year tribulation, totalling the interrupted seven years of Daniel.

 

[6] Block, Ezekiel, see page 505 for examples.

[7] Early in the first century there was an expectation (even among the apostles) that the return of Lord and the fulfilment of all the end time prophecies was imminent; “For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep”. (1 Thess.4:15 see also Matt. 10:23; Matt. 24:34; 1 Thess. 4:15; 2 Thess. 2:1-2). This indicates that Daniel/Revelation allowed the possibility of a complete first century outworking contingent on the faithfulness of the nation and the church.

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The ‘great tribulation’ of the Seals also shows parallelisms with the ‘martyr-witnessing’ of the Trumpets.[8] The Trumpets herald the eschatological Day of Atonement at the end of the 490 years.[9] Temple liturgy and the Day of Atonement inform the background[10] of the    Continued  ˃

 

[8] Revelation 10;1–11;13 parallels 7;1-17 as both sections serve functionally similar roles as a parentheses in the midst of their accompanying series of judgments, they also both present a delay in their respective series of judgments. Schussler Fiorenza, comments on Revelation chapters 10–11, “they have the same structural function within Revelation as the interlude of chapter 7” E. Schussler Fiorenza, Revelation: Vision of a Just World, (Minneapolis, 1981), 74. See also: P.E. Hughes, The Book of Revelation, (Pillar NT Commentaries; Grand Rapids, 1990), 92.

[9] The trumpet section is based on the liturgy of the Day of Atonement. Trumpets were sounded at the commencement of the civil New Year ten days before the Day of Atonement.

[10] Despite prolific Temple imagery/liturgy occurring in the Apocalypse the impact has been marginal on interpretive approaches and the topos is barely noted in commentaries. Recently this neglect has been addressed (1997/1999) by studies from Brigg and Spatafora(s), who investigate the use of Temple imagery in apocryphal and OT sources and the subsequent development of the Temple theme in the Apocalypse. The common feature shared by these recent works is recognition of the importance of temple imagery/liturgy in the Apocalypse, particularly the importance of the Day of Atonement, a feature also noted by H. A. Whittaker. Robert A. Brigg, Jewish Temple Imagery in the Book of Revelation (Studies in Biblical Literature, Vol 10: Peter Lang Publishing, 1999); Spatafora(s) observes that, “All other studies and commentaries appear to analyse the individual recurrences, but they fail to see a relationship between them”. Andrew Spatafora and Andrea Spatafora, From the ‘Temple of God’ to God as the Temple: A Biblical Theological Study of the Temple in the Book of Revelation,(Pontificia Univ. Gregoriana: Italy,1997),7-9; H.A. Whittaker, Revelation: A Biblical Approach, (Lichfield: Staffs, 1973), 104-5

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witnessing in Rev. 11, which is a parenthesis within the Trumpet section. Three-and-a-half years of witnessing completes the second half of Daniel’s last “week” and therefore it completes the 490 years by introducing the Great Day of Atonement Jubilee that reveals the Son of Man coming out of the cosmic sanctuary (cf. the high priest on the Day of Atonement) with the clouds of heaven.

 

Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. (Rev.21:2)

 

But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. (Rev.21:22)