The altar of God is barbaric and burdensome only to those who are ignorant of the horrors which it restrains. A taste of death holds back the judgment.
Part 1 is here.
The fact that the Bible’s harshest modern critics “clutch their pearls” over God’s call for Abraham to sacrifice Isaac reveals their wilful ignorance of the context of that call. Human sacrifice was common practice in the worship of the gods of Canaan. The Lord was demonstrating unequivocally – and unforgettably – that He was not one of those gods, and that His altar was not their altar. This act was necessary because the city which He would build would not be like the cities of men.
Cultus gives rise to culture because the mediating “tower” of Adam inevitably gives rise to the “city” of Eve. Whether that city is Jerusalem or Babylon, the city of God or the city of Cain, depends upon the nature of the worship which is the source of its life. Both cities are founded upon the shedding of blood, but one is established upon mercy and the other upon vengeance. This is the difference between the altar of heaven and the altar of hell. One leads to rivers of living water and the other to rivers of blood.
The glory of the Evian city depends entirely upon the Adamic lamb at its centre (Revelation 21:9-27). Corruption of the city thus begins in the Sanctuary. Abominations in the Land flow from sacrilege in the Garden, an Adam who refuses to be a lamb and instead – wittingly or unwittingly – places his wife and children upon the altar.
Satan was a murderer from the beginning (John 8:44). Although a minister of heaven with kingly pretensions, he was a mere servant on the earth, a teacher. Although consisting of dust from the earth, Adam and his wife were royal heirs to the court of heaven. As legal representatives of God, they would indeed be “gods,” righteous judges. If the Adamic oath were broken, curses would replace the promised blessings and humanity would be cut out of history. If they did not judge, they would be judged. The occasion of Satan’s fall was an attempt to force God’s hand in judgment against the Man and the Woman in order to steal their inheritance.
However, just as God’s hand had cut into Adam, God’s hand now shed the blood of an innocent animal. Since Adam failed to be a living sacrifice, a proxy was required, one that would remind Adam that he was a ravenous beast instead of a shepherd. In a primeval sense, since Adam as yet had no offspring, this animal was a legal representative of Adam’s kingdom. As one of his first subjects, a suffering servant, this domestic (clean) animal was a true angelos, a beast burdened with the message of the Gospel: substitutionary atonement. From then on, the prophetic message would forever be a massa, something to be carried or borne.
And he shall lean/rest his hand (Creation/Initiation/Sabbath)
upon the head, (Division/Delegation/Passover)
of the ascension, (Ascension/Presentation/Firstfruits)
and it shall please (Testing/Purification/Pentecost)
on his behalf, (Maturity/Transformation/Trumpets)
to make a covering, (Conquest/Vindication/Atonement)
on his behalf. (Glorification/Representation/Booths)
Semicha (leaning) upon the qorban (near bringing) was not merely a transmission of guilt but also of weight. If Adam had been faithful, he would have borne God’s government upon his shoulders in the mantle of the priest-king: the weight of glory. Instead, he bore a reminder of the life which was given to cover his iniquity: the weight of sin. The Hebrew word for “glory” is related to the word for “heavy.” The most glorious element in the Tabernacle was the kapporet, the heavy golden covering of the Ark of the Covenant.
Just as the skins of the sacrificial animals were given to the Levite priests, so the skin of this animal became a literal covering for Adam and Eve. They were now rulers whose eyes were opened, but they were not prepared for the burden of judging between good and evil. Faithful and regular worship would lead them to examine their hearts before God, enabling them to forgive as they had been forgiven (Matthew 6:12). As they found shalom (peace) in the wisdom of God (priesthood), so the nations would find shelomoh (Solomon) in them (kingdom). The city of peace rests upon the obedience of the Man. If the Man disobeys, the burden falls upon his subjects. This is why, instead of primeval psalms and proverbs, not a single word of Adam is recorded for us after Genesis 3. The “prophetic word” in Genesis 4 is the offering of the blood and fat of the firstborn of the flock at the Gate of God.
Because of the fall, bloodshed was inevitable. But the city of God can only ever be founded upon the blood which God Himself has required. Abel understood what was required to draw near to God for fellowship. It was not Cain’s offering per se that was rejected but its timing. He put kingdom before priesthood, seizing dominion upon earth (kingdom) without prior submission to heaven (priesthood). The first city was founded upon vengeance and thus served as a fortress. The brother who failed to “keep” his sibling now required a keep. Its gates were not for the purpose of maintaining purity but impurity.
Since substitutionary atonement was rejected, the prophetic massa of the priesthood was silenced and the bloodletting could not be contained to the Sanctuary. Tower and city were divorced from each other in the bipolar lineages of Adam: Seth and Cain. Intermarriage with godless women by the sons of God eradicated worship from the earth, and the world was filled with violence. Bearing the weight of the scales of justice would not come until Noah, whose name means “rest.” As the burden of the robe of authority rested upon this faithful prophet, so rest from bloodshed came upon the dry land.
There is an architectural element to the destruction of the primeval world, and it exists in the design of the Tabernacle of Israel. The Bronze Altar with its four horns represented the land of Canaan, a territory which served as a sacrificial substitute – and a terrifying example – for all the dry land of the world. The Incense Altar represented the fragrant smoke rising from the olah (ascension) of Noah, testifying that the will of God had been done on earth as it is in heaven. Since worship upon the land had bitten the dust, the altar of God had become the altar of the abyss. Instead of the mercy of animal sacrifices there was the “continual offering” of human blood, begun in Cain (as a false “head”) and legislated in Lamech the polygamist (as a false “body”). Because of the failure of the priesthood to mediate between heaven and earth, the abyss was dredged up to make the “altar” holy once more. Because Adam was not invested as the faithful representative of all Creation, the first Priest-King, the entire world would be “invested” (surrounded or besieged) by the firmament and “baptized” into Noah and his new order of priest-kings. The journey of the ark was a rite of passage from the Bronze Altar to the Incense Altar via the “water and fire” of the Bronze Laver that the rainbow of the throne of mercy might encompass the land.
The intention of false worship has always been to confound the mercy of God through sleight of hand. If mankind could not be slaughtered through the abandonment of worship, mankind would be slaughtered through false worship. Babel is the reunion of tower and city through intermarriage in the Sanctuary, that is, confessional syncretism. This was the sin of Judah and Israel, who retained “lip service” – that is, a confession — of the name of Yahweh, yet also worshiped the hosts of heaven and dined with the hosts of hell. Outright rebellion began with Jeroboam’s golden calves and his demonic “feast”1See Jeroboam’s Table of Demons. and culminated in the installation of demonic images and altars in Solomon’s Temple. Manasseh not only consulted with mediums and necromancers, he also put own son “through the fire.” The cultural integrity resulting from Israel’s godly foundation was used to fashion a city that was twice as evil.
But they did not listen, and Manasseh led them astray to do more evil than the nations had done whom the Lord destroyed before the people of Israel. (2 Kings 21:9)
False worship in the “Garden” led to bloodshed and oppression in the Land. The Sanctuary sin (theft of kingdom) was more difficult to discern, but the result was the same — enslavement and murder of Hebrew brothers, and neglect and oppression of orphans and widows. This is the world without a faithful Adam. As Douglas Wilson has said, “Anyone who worships at Dan and Bethel will inevitably grind the poor.”
Because the people have forsaken me and have profaned this place by making offerings in it to other gods whom neither they nor their fathers nor the kings of Judah have known; and because they have filled this place with the blood of innocents, and have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal, which I did not command or decree, nor did it come into my mind— therefore, behold, days are coming, declares the Lord, when this place shall no more be called Topheth, or the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, but the Valley of Slaughter. (Jeremiah 19:4-6)
Since they had sacrificed their own “Isaacs” on the high places (in the “waters above”) and in the Valley of Hinnom (in the “waters below”), God would come down in judgment and bring the Babylonians up against them as a flood. He would “bow the heavens” that His will might be done on earth. Following the sound of trumpets, Zion would burn like Sinai. Since the entire city had become an altar of the abyss, defiled with the bones of the dead, the burning mountain would be lifted up and cast into the sea (Matthew 21:21; Revelation 8:8).
The “Adamic” altar of God was reestablished under Ezra the priest, and the “Evian” city of God was rebuilt under Nehemiah, cupbearer to the king. As a “resurrection body” of bread and wine, all Jerusalem was now considered clean, referred to for the first time as “the holy city.”2See The First Holy City. The death of the High Priesthood (as Adam) led to the construction of a more glorious Kingdom (as Eve). Just as evil had matured and become more difficult to discern and destroy, so had the work of God. Israel died under Daniel (as head) and was vindicated from India to Ethiopia in Esther (as body).3See Daniel the Destroyer. The kingdom of God was now a Jew-Gentile empire.4See Nebuchadnezzar’s Gospel. This Jew-Gentile construct is described as sacred architecture in the final chapters of Ezekiel. This was a kingdom that was more spiritual in nature, and thus more difficult to corrupt.
When the Seed of Abraham finally came, Jerusalem once again became a Canaanite high place. The faithfulness of Abraham had reversed the Adamic curse upon the fruit of the land and the fruit of the womb on behalf of the nations. The decree of Herod the Great to slaughter the innocents loaded the massa of Adam’s sin upon the sons of Israel and the Promised Land became a new Egypt. The voice of God was silenced and replaced by the voice of a tyrant. Due to the expropriation of worship, the bloodshed of the altar was once again spreading into the Land.
When Jesus gave His first sermon, He instructed quarreling brothers to reconcile that their gift to God might be accepted (Matthew 5:21-26), alluding to Cain’s hatred of Abel. He later told Peter that he must forgive an offender “seventy times seven,” alluding to Lamech’s resulting antinomianism (Genesis 4:24; Matthew 18:21-22). As with the serpent in Eden, lawlessness does not begin with anarchy but with tyranny, that is, God’s law used as a weapon rather than as enlightenment, a pathway to death rather than a stairway to life. The Pharisees and the Herods were “lawless” in this sense, using their God-given authority in the Garden and the Land as a means to mislead and oppress. Lawlessness is not an absence of law but a replacement of it. The “oral law,” a demonic counterfeit, was put in the place of the Law of Moses that the rulers might style themselves as “gods” sent from heaven when in truth they represented hell. As G. K. Chesterton said, “If you will not have rules, you will have rulers.”
“The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.” (Matthew 23:2-4)
Moreover, they were spreading this perversion of worship across the empire in direct violation of the directive received under Ezra, Nehemiah and the post-exilic prophets. Jesus alludes to Jeremiah’s condemnation of the rulers of Jerusalem in His denunciation of their false evangelism. The Valley of Hinnom would once again become a Valley of Slaughter, beginning with Judas who would serve as a sign against Judah.5See Judas the Scapegoat.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of Gehenna as yourselves.” (Matthew 23:15)
Jesus ignored all of the Jewish sects except the Pharisees because they – as self-styled “purists” – were the ones who were the closest to God. But they had slowly become serpents in the Garden, a brood of vipers. However, the ultimate deception could not occur until after the ascension of Christ. Gary North writes:
Satan has to sit on God’s lap, so to speak, in order to slap His face – or try to. Satan cannot be consistent to his own philosophy of autonomous order and still be a threat to God. An autonomous order leads to chaos and impotence. He knows that there is no neutral ground in philosophy. He knew Adam and Eve would die spiritually on the day that they ate the fruit. He is a good enough theologian to know that there is one God, and he and his host tremble at the thought (James 2:19). When demonic men take seriously his lies about the nature of reality, they become impotent, sliding off (or nearly off) God’s lap. It is when satanists realize that Satan’s official philosophy of chaos and antinomian lawlessness is a lie that they become dangerous… They learn more of the truth, but they pervert it and try to use it against God’s people.6Gary North, Common Grace, Eschatology, and Biblical Law, Appendix C.
Even the armies of chaos must wage an orderly campaign in order to win. The maturity of the Church of God – the indwelling of the Spirit resulted in an “Eve” who could not be deceived (Matthew 24:24) – would result in a more mature response from the devil. The historic referent is the spread of false doctrine by Judaizers throughout the newly established churches across the empire, a demonic syncretism between Moses and Christ which Paul describes as a false Gospel delivered by an angel of light. The saints were faced with a Gospel and an anti-gospel, the Christ and an anti-Christ. As it was for Adam, the only way they could rightly discern between the light and the darkness, the truth and its doppelgänger, was through heeding the Word of God.
Continuing the theme of the altar of the abyss as an “evil twin” of the Tabernacle of God, the Revelation describes this event as a perversion of sacred architecture. The Seven Seals culminate in the pouring out of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, and the Seven Trumpets result in a confrontation – spiritual warfare – between the true sons of Abraham and their evil twins, the Herodian imposters. The literary structure of the passage makes use of the chiastic nature of the Bible Matrix to present the Gospel witness of the Apostles as a two-edged sword which builds up the saints and throws down the sinners: as a process of sacrifice it works forwards, but as a deconstruction of the now obsolete Abrahamic “Tabernacle” it works backwards.
Jewish worshipers: Canaan rendered barren
(Creation / Initiation / Sabbath)
OATH BROKEN – NEGATIVE SANCTIONS
Gentile worshipers: Sinai revoked
(Division / Delegation / Passover)
Cast out of heaven, Satan returns to Eden
(Ascension / Presentation / Firstfruits)
The Lord sends a strong delusion
(Testing / Purification / Pentecost)
The plague of demonized Jews
(Maturity / Transformation / Trumpets)
A NEW HIERARCHY
The conquering sons of Abraham
(Conquest / Vindication / Atonement)
A NEW SANCTUARY
Moses, Elijah and the Ark of the Testimony
(Glorification / Representation / Booths)
Although there is much to comment on here, the point that is relevant to our discussion is the presentation of Satan as a false “head” and the Jewish proselytes as a false “body.” The devil had “come down” to them (Revelation 12:12) and the house which Jesus had cleaned was now filled with seven worse demons.7See Seven Spirits More Wicked. Most interesting is the fact that the images used in this presentation are a cutting insult of the claim of the Jews to holiness based upon their Abrahamic heritage: The third (head) and fifth (body) trumpets are an ironic inversion of the ratification of the Abrahamic Covenant (Genesis 15). While Abram slept, a smoking firepot and a blazing torch passed through the divided sacrifices. At Ascension in this cycle, Satan falls from heaven to earth (Bronze Altar) and at Maturity he summons up a plague of “Babylonian” locusts from the sulfur of Sodom (Incense Altar). This counterfeit Covenant Head and Covenant Body is the anti-Christian Judaism which mustered itself against the Church and slaughtered it in the years leading up to the Jewish War. The good works of the saints were a fragrant testimony of the will of God being done on earth, but the works of the devil – carried out, initially by Paul, in the name of God – were a stink in His nostrils.8For more analysis, see Moses and the Revelation.
The final showdown between Jesus, the true King of Israel, and Herod, the Edomite “twin,” is described in the language of the battle of Joshua and Amalek at the foot of Mount Sinai. This is the meaning of the famous “battle of Armageddon.”9See The Seven Bowls of Revelation. The firstborn of God and the firstborn of Adam wage war like Cain and Abel at the foot of the altar – while Moses, Aaron and Hur stood as the three furnishings in the Holy Place, representing Priest, King and Prophet. Once these were united into a single office in Christ, the outcome was decided, and Abel was finally avenged (Genesis 4:10; Luke 11:50). The struggle between Herod and Christ in the womb of the new creation – the “beginning of birth pangs” mentioned by Jesus (Matthew 24:8) – would result in the vindication of the Jerusalem above and the rejection of Jerusalem below. Like Babylon, the doppelgänger bride had become “a dwelling place for demons, a haunt for every unclean spirit, a haunt for every unclean bird, a haunt for every unclean and detestable beast.” (Revelation 18:2)
Pandæmonium, the city of “every demon,” is an inheritance stolen from Adam, and thus always founded upon the blood of men, women and children. Instead of a stairway to heaven, it is a gateway to hell. It is no coincidence that as Western culture syncretised its “origins” with Darwinism (Garden) and its Gospel with secular humanism (Land) that its “holy sacraments” have become those of Sodom and Egypt (World). Its end is nigh. From the beginning, the word of God has been questioned and twisted, ridiculed and despised … but it has always been vindicated.
Throughout history, each new attempt to corrupt the work of God has simply instructed and purified His people. Our heavenly city is truly a work of the Spirit, invisible to the eyes of men, unassailable and incorruptible, a city of peace founded upon an altar that has been satisfied eternally by blood that speaks better things than the blood of Abel: no curses, only blessings. Evil learns, but holiness lasts.
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References [ + ]
|1.||↑||See Jeroboam’s Table of Demons.|
|2.||↑||See The First Holy City.|
|3.||↑||See Daniel the Destroyer.|
|4.||↑||See Nebuchadnezzar’s Gospel.|
|5.||↑||See Judas the Scapegoat.|
|6.||↑||Gary North, Common Grace, Eschatology, and Biblical Law, Appendix C.|
|7.||↑||See Seven Spirits More Wicked.|
|8.||↑||For more analysis, see Moses and the Revelation.|
|9.||↑||See The Seven Bowls of Revelation.|