Temple Framework Of The Atonement -- By: Adam Johnson

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 54:2 (Jun 2011)
Article: Temple Framework Of The Atonement
Author: Adam Johnson


Temple Framework Of The Atonement

Adam Johnson*

* Adam Johnson is a Ph.D. student at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, 2065 Half Day Road, Deerfield, IL 60015.

The purpose of this essay is to explore Christ’s atoning work from the standpoint of the Temple theme flowing throughout the Old and New Testaments. To do this I will build on the excellent work of G. K. Beale,1 concerning which I have two significant reservations. The first concern is methodological. As T. F. Torrance explains: “The sacrificial and liturgical acts were regarded as witness and only witness to God’s own action and appointment. . . . Liturgical sacrifice rests upon God’s self-revelation and answers as cultic sign to God’s own word and action, which is the thing signified.”2 That is, in Scripture the sacrificial and liturgical acts (and implements) play a significant role only within the determining context of God’s self-revealing work. Only as we consider the Temple theme within the context of God’s nature and purposes do we truly understand the former; only as we examine it indirectly as God’s preferential mode of presence with his people do we see it in its true light. But keeping the question of God’s nature and purposes to the foreground highlights the “dreadful side” of this theme: that of God’s absence—a matter concerning which Beale writes little.

This brings us to my second concern: Beale’s lack of sustained attention to the death of Jesus. I am of the strong impression that a theme so significant and extensive throughout Scripture will offer us far more concerning the death of Jesus Christ than Beale suggests. Perhaps this is to be expected, however, for by not drawing on the dreadfulness of God’s presence throughout Scripture, Beale does not emphasize the tension or problem to which Jesus is the solution.

In this essay, I will briefly develop what I call the “dreadful side” of God’s presence, building on this material to explore Scripture’s witness to the relationship between the Temple theme and Jesus’ death for us.3

I. The Divine Absence

Integral to the Temple theme is the danger of God’s presence or the threat of his absence or abandonment. Consider the role of the veil in the temple. The purpose of the veil was to separate the holy place [הַקּרֶשׁ] from the most holy [קֹרֶשׁ הַקֳּרָשִׁים] (Exod 26:33-34). Th...

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