1 John – Cycle 10

The tenth cycle brings us to Trumpets, where the theme is “hosts” of various kinds, swarms or clouds of individuals who share a single mind. Under this symbol, John shows us that a common love for God in heaven brings reconciliation on the earth.

The subject matter moves from the heart of the Ethics to the results of obedience. In sacrificial terms, this is a shift from the “holy fire” of love to the “fragrant smoke” of unity which pleases God.

Trumpets concerned the mustering of the troops of Israel, but in Genesis the “hosts” image is found in Joseph’s betrayal by his brothers. John’s point is that the Spirit of Pentecost will result in unity of Spirit among the saints as brothers in Christ.

TRANSCENDENCE (Genesis/Creation)

Fear not (Creation)
there is in love, (Division)
but perfect love (Ascension)
casts out fear; (Testing)
because the fear torment has; (Maturity)
the one moreover fearing, (Conquest)
not has been perfected in love. (Glorification)

  • The first cycle gets to the heart, the source of hatred. Perhaps behind Adam’s grasping of equality with God was fear.
  • Line 4 concerns the Spirit, and so this is also related to casting the serpent from the Garden (as Adam should have done) and casting demons out of the possessed.
  • Whether or not that is the case, the torment in line 5 corresponds to the point in the Edenic narrative where Adam and Eve hid themselves from God because they were afraid of judgment. Line 7 is Adam’s condition after the Fall.
  • The first half of the stanza is positive, as a Word from God. The second half is Man’s failure to respond to that Word.

HIERARCHY (Exodus/Division)

We love (Sabbath)
because he first loved us. (Passover)
If anyone should say, (Firstfruits)
I love God, (Pentecost)
and his brother (Trumpets)
should hate, (Atonement)
a liar he is. (Booths)

  • Adam’s sin results in brother/brother jealousy and conflict. The theme of Cain and Abel continues in Canaan and Shem, Jacob and Esau, and the sibling rivalry culminates in Joseph’s rejection by his brothers, and their reconciliation. In Exodus, the Canaan/Shem conflict is brought to a head in the division between the sons of Egypt (the Land of Ham) and the sons of Shem (the Hebrew shepherds).
  • Perhaps John is referring to Cain’s response to the Lord when questioned about his missing brother. But all of this structural background merely supports the obvious application to strife between Christians.

ETHICS: Priesthood (Leviticus/Ascension)

The one indeed (Ark of the Testimony)
not loving (Veil closed)
his brother (Bronze Altar: earthly court)
whom he has seen, (Lampstand)
God (Incense Altar: heavenly court)
whom he has not seen, (Veil unopened)
is not able to love. (No reconciliation)

  • The priestly stanza ascends from earth to heaven, from Man to God. But the veil that is closed at Division/Passover remains closed at Conquest/Atonement. If we do not forgive others, God will not forgive us.
  • The final sin before the destruction of both Temples in Israel’s history was hatred for brothers (the Hebrew slaves under King Zedekiah, the “least of my brethren” oppressed by the rulers in the first century), and Jesus alludes to Cain and Abel when He speaks of leaving one’s gift at the altar to first reconcile with a brother.

ETHICS: Kingdom (Numbers/Testing)

And this (Initiation)
is the commandment (Delegation)
we have from him, (Presentation)
that the one (Purification)
loving God (Transformation)
should also love (Vindication)
his brother. (Representation)

  • In the Pentecost stanza, the movement is from heaven back down to earth, tracking the sending of the Spirit from the ascended Christ. This fulfilled the type of Moses descending from the mountain with the Ten Words at the first Pentecost.
  • This up-down pattern unites the Priestly stanza with the Kingly stanza. It also follows the ascent of the High Priest on the Day of Atonement and his return with blessings upon the people for another year.
  • The best “matrix” thread seems to be that of the order of sacrifice, where the goal is reunion and reconciliation with God. Through the structure, John implies that union with God in Christ will result in unity among brethren.

ETHICS: Prophecy (Deuteronomy/Maturity)

Everyone believing (Sabbath)
that Jesus is the Christ, (Passover)
of God has been born, (Firstfruits)
and everyone loving (Pentecost)
the one having begotten, (Trumpets)
loves also the one (Atonement)
begotten of him. (Booths)

  • The Trumpets stanza of this Trumpets cycle hammers home the requirement for spiritual siblings. It is common for natural siblings to be at odds with each other, but the second birth is different. In Christ, we are all Abels, all Jacobs, all Shems, all part of a new kind of Succession, those who will inherit the earth.
  • This stanza appears to include both an ascent to and a descent from heaven, perhaps indicating the access the saints have as “elders” of the Sanctuary. Whereas the Bronze Altar (blood) portrayed the fundamental character of Israel, the Incense Altar reveals the fundamental character of the Church (fragrant smoke).

OATH/SANCTIONS (Joshua/Conquest)

By this we know (Genesis: Light)
that we love the children of God, (Exodus: Firmament)
when God we love, (Leviticus: Land and Fruitbearers)
and his laws keep. (Numbers: Governing Lights)
This indeed is the love of God, (Deuteronomy: Hosts)
that his laws we should keep. (Joshua: Mediators)
And his laws are not burdensome. (Judges: Rest)

  • Human beings are so lacking in discernment that John reminds us what love actually looks like. It is not the fulfilling of base desires, inordinate affections which are so often labelled as “love,” but is completely lawful, as inspired by the Spirit of God.
  • This stanza corresponds to Adam on Day 6 of Creation, and Israel in the book of Joshua. Both were on the threshold of the Land promised to them. Dominion depended upon rejecting fear and trusting that God was good, and that this was expressed in His law.
  • John’s statement that God’s laws are not burdensome is a swipe at the Oral Law invented by the Jews and used as a tool of oppression, but it also aligns them (as a brood of serpents) with Satan’s slander of God to Eve in Eden.

SUCCESSION (Judges/Glorification)

For all who have been born of God (Creation)
overcome the world; (Division)
and this (Word)
is the victory (Sacrament)
having overcome the world: (Government)
our faith. (Testing)
Who now (Word-bearer)
is the one (Martyr)
overcoming the world (Heir)
except the one believing (Conquest)
that Jesus is the Son of God? (Glorification)

  • Rest and rule arrive in the final stanza, where the earthly and heavenly altars enjoy an expansion into complete three-level houses: the silent house of Moses and the praise-filled house of David, the latter of which included Gentile worshipers. Thus, the stanza moves from Priesthood to Kingdom.
  • The first house represents the Covenant Head (the Christ who had already ascended), and the second the Covenant Body, which was yet to overcome the Jew-Gentile conspiracy facing the Firstfruits Church. The link between the Head and Body, or in sacrificial terms, between natural flesh and fragrant bridal smoke, was a flaming, refining “Pentecostal” faith in Christ. Faith that is untested is not faith.
  • The Church was not on the threshold of the Land, but of the World. Unlike Adam, and unlike Israel, the Church which overcame the Herods and the Caesars will overcome everyone and everything that exalts itself against the knowledge of God.

If you are new to this method of interpretation, please visit the Welcome page for some help to get you up to speed.

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