In the second cycle of John’s first epistle, John shifts his focus from the Tabernacle itself to the guardians of worship, from Transcendence to Hierarchy.
In Bible Matrix terms, this is a move from Creation to Division, and once again we are faced with a text whose allusions remain oblique without reference to John’s careful literary arrangement of the information he wishes to convey. Similar to the use of musical cues in in cinema, the literary structure allows him to marshall events from the Old Testament to back up his exhortations without even mentioning them by name.
In this cycle, he speaks of hypocrisy and hatred, but his Covenant-literary template reveals these two sins to be cause-and-effect in a single process, one that was rife among the Judaizers within and without the Church.
TRANSCENDENCE: Creation – Adam and Cain (Genesis/Sabbath)
And by this we know that we have come to know him, (Creation/Initiation)
if his commandments we should keep. (Division/Delegation)
The one saying, “I have known him” (Ascension/Presentation – Priesthood)
but whoever keeps his word, (Conquest/Vindication)
in him truly the love of God is perfected.
- The book of Genesis gives us a number of contrasts between brothers. Very often, those who were born to carry on the Covenant Succession disqualified themselves, and that role was given to their younger brothers. The prime examples here are Abel, Jacob and Joseph.
- The triple reference to “keeping” in the first stanza is important to note. The word means more than simply obeying or observing the Law. It also means to guard or to watch over, and thus alludes to Adam’s priestly duty of “keeping” the Garden-Sanctuary free from invaders (Genesis 2:15), and Cain’s disgusting reference to the duty of keeping or shepherding his brother Abel after having slain him (Genesis 4:9), the keeper of sheep (Genesis 4:1). Keeping God’s word results in unity and peace. Rejecting God’s word results in division and violence.
- In application, the Christians, especially the Jewish believers who were grounded in the Scriptures, were now the gatekeepers of the Covenant. They were not to be like the Pharisees, those who not only regarded Gentiles as being unclean but also despised their own brothers, the people of Israel.1For more discussion, see When Judaism Jumped the Shark.
HIERARCHY: Division – Pharaoh and Moses (Exodus/Passover)
- In Exodus, Israel was baptised into Moses, and the triple reference technique is used once again. The process moves from Delegation, to the giving of the Law, to accountability to that Law at Vindication.
- As is usual, the “claim” at Firstfruits/Ascension refers to external law, and the obedience at Trumpets/Maturity refers to internal law.
- The placement of the dual references to walking is clever, since it not only highlights the Exodus theme of the stanza, but also alludes to the role of the prophet as one who does not stand as the priest, nor sit enthroned as a king, but walks among the nations like Enoch.
ETHICS – PRIESTHOOD: Ascension – Aaron and Moses (Leviticus/Firstfruits)
- Ascension refers to Moses on Sinai as the “Covenant head,” but also to the subsequent Levitical order of human “firstfruits.” John is writing to the Firstfruits Church, many of whom would be slain as a tithe of Israel to God and to the Lamb. The structure is sacrificial but it is also a process of judicial maturity.
- At Ascension (law given), John is Moses on the mountain with the tablets of God, only the apostle transmits the Law of the Spirit.
- At Maturity (law received), the saints at the foot of the mountain were to see the New Covenant hidden in the Old, as revealed by the Spirit of God. But this was a better mountain, not the Bronze Altar of Sinai but the Incense Altar of Zion:
“For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.” But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.” (Hebrews 12:18-24)
- The final line gives the Covenant Succession to the Jews who not only heard the Law but were doers of the Law.
ETHICS – KINGDOM: Testing – Balaam and Moses (Numbers/Pentecost)
On the other hand, (Initiation: Ark of the Testimony)
it is a new commandment (Delegation: Veil)
I am writing to you (Presentation – Priesthood: Altar & Table)
because the darkness is passing away, (Vindication: Laver and Mediators/Veil torn)
and the true light already shines. (Representation: Shekinah)
- The architecture moves from Ascension to Testing, from the Bronze Altar and Golden Table to the brightness of the Lampstand. This explains the reference to the passing away of the Old Covenant darkness through a better Pentecost than the one at Sinai where 3,000 were slain. The same “head and body” structure in the triune office at the center of the stanza reveals the Spirit of Jesus to be the link between John and those to whom he writes.
- The Old Commandment has been made new because the Law which was external and powerless is now internal and life giving. The cutting of flesh has been replaced with circumcision of heart.
ETHICS – PROPHECY: Maturity – Israel and Moses (Deuteronomy/Trumpets)
- The Trumpets step in the pattern speaks of swarms/plagues and military hosts. In Joseph’s first cycle, it is the point at which his brothers unite against him, so the reference to hating a brother here is central.
- But it also speaks of the “maturity” of our deeds, and of legal witness before God. The application to Christians today is obvious, but it seems that John is referring to the hatred which consumed many Jews through their imagined “legal” superiority over others.
OATH/SANCTIONS: Conquest – Joshua and Caleb (Joshua/Atonement)
- Stumbling is clearly a reference to a lack of light, but at Sanctions within the Sanctions stanza it alludes to the judgment of God, who sends great delusion upon those who will not listen to His word. So here John speaks of the consequences of hatred, which is a consequence of disobedience.
- At Oath/Sanctions, since this step in the fivefold pattern corresponds to Day 6 in the sevenfold pattern, the failure of Adam to enter into God’s rest is also behind the scenes. Adam despised God’s word and listened to satan, who was a murderer from the beginning (John 8:44).
- This step also corresponds to the book of Joshua, and we remember that it was he and Caleb who believed God from the beginning, and were the only two Israelites who did not die in the wilderness but received their inheritance.
SUCCESSION: Glorification – Abimelech and Samson (Judges/Booths)
- John’s apparent allusions here are subtle but powerful. As the seventh stanza in this cycle, he chooses two references to seven from the book of Judges which have reference to the overall Division theme of the cycle but also to the idea of the glorified man having perfect judgment, the discerning “eyesight” of the God who sees all things.
- Firstly, there is Abimelech, son of Gideon, who used his “brotherhood” as a cover to slay seventy of his own brothers (Judges 9:1-5). Secondly, there is Samson, the seventh and final of the elected judges, whose eyes were gouged out (Judges 16:21), which covered in a veil of darkness (Division) the one named “sunrise” (Glorification).
If you are new to this method of interpretation, please visit the Welcome page for some help to get you up to speed.
References [ + ]
|1.||↑||For more discussion, see When Judaism Jumped the Shark.|