“Make yourself right at home in the Garden, Tabernacle and Temple…
The prophecies in the final chapters of Zechariah, taken in isolation, are extremely confusing. They seem to describe, very darkly, some events which took place in the first century. Yet they also describe some things which clearly did not take place. Or did they?
The key to interpreting the prophecy is its structure. It follows a formula which is second nature to Jewish people: the process of Israel’s annual feasts. If they had their wits about them, the Jews would hear these words and be able to say, “I see what you did there.” Once they are recognised as literary art, these words are not only completely intelligible, they are also brilliant and beautiful. And terrifyingly ironic.
In Matthew 24:29, Jesus employs “cosmic language,” signs in the sun, moon and stars, to predict the imminent end of the Old Covenant. His first-century audience would have recognized His allusion to the prophecy against Babylon in Isaiah 13 and understood His discourse as a condemnation of Jerusalem as a contemporary Babel.
Like the books of Samuel and Chronicles, the book of Kings is so long and detailed that it was divided into two scrolls. But it is clearly a single book, one which begins with the construction of Solomon’s Temple and ends with its destruction. When its major events are taken into account, its internal symmetry becomes more evident.
Every one of God’s houses throughout Bible history has “former days” and “latter days.” This pattern of construction and reconstruction is a process of death and resurrection.
Our familiarity with the Bible is a two-edged sword. Knowing it well enables us to wield it, but it often shields us from being truly exposed to it. By this I do not mean the moral and spiritual challenges from which we benefit in our reading and our study. What I mean is that we forget how terribly eccentric this book of God actually is. Its strangest parts are like the weird uncle at family gatherings. We have become so accustomed to his idiosyncrasies that we no longer question them. Instead of asking “Why is it so?” we settle for the fact that it is simply so, and must be accepted without question. “What’s done is done.”
The book of Daniel is itself the blueprint for a new Temple. It is a “literary ziggurat.”
…by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous… (Isaiah 53:11)
The High Priest made two approaches to the Most Holy on the Day of Atonement – one for the Head (Adam) and one for the Body (Eve), lifting the curse on the Land and the Offspring. As Israel represented all nations, so one man represented all Israel. Once a year, one man would “die” for the people.
We see the same Head-and-Body (totus Christus) structure in the book of Daniel. The first six chapters concern the Jewish head, lifted up into the court of the emperor, and the last six concern the Jewish body in subsequent history. As we see in the Creation Week, the book has a Forming (priestly) and a Filling (kingly), and ends with a promise of the Future (prophetic). Daniel’s ministry as court prophet was a microcosm of Israel’s “latter day” prophetic ministry throughout the empire. His ministry to a single empire laid the foundation for Israel’s ministry to all four empires, culminating in a fifth, the rule of Christ and His Church.
The book of Daniel is itself the blueprint for this new “social” Temple, a literary ziggurat with three stages. Each heptamerous stage becomes the first step of a larger heptamerous pattern. It has a Most Holy Place (Daniel 1), a Holy Place (Daniel 1-7) and Gentile Courts (Daniel 1-12). This ziggurat shape means that the book resembles the mountain of God in textual form, a blessing flowing from the obedience of one man in the highest court flowing through a four-cornered Altar-Land into all the nations.
Garden – Daniel 1
Land – Daniel 1-7
World – Daniel 1-12
Garden – Daniel 1
Land – Daniel 1-7
Genesis / Sabbath – Daniel resists the offer of kingdom without priestly obedience (Ark)
Exodus / Passover – Daniel shelters the wise men by interpreting Nebuchadnezzar’s night vision (Veil)
Leviticus / Firstfruits – Daniel’s mighty men are offered to the flames (LAW OF MAN) (Altar)
Joshua / Atonement – Daniel survives the lions’ den, and is “resurrected” from the sealed “tomb” (Priest and People)
Judges / Booths – Daniel is given a vision of the end of the Restoration Covenant era, the final Old Covenant Succession (Shekinah)
As the final verse of Daniel 1 is opened in Daniel 1-6, so the final chapter in this second section (chapter 7) is opened in chapters 8-12. Israel’s “latter day” future, her “Succession,” is revealed to Daniel.
World – Daniel 1-12
If we do not read the Bible as literary architecture, a lot of it isn’t going to make sense. But if we do, we will find it has a disarming beauty. Here, we can see that just as individual sin becomes corporate sin, so individual holiness becomes corporate holiness. God rips a holy man open to make a holy place, a shelter for others. As the man becomes a Holy Husbandman, so the barrenness and trouble of Eve is removed (Genesis 3). The entire restoration era rested upon the foundation of Daniel’s faithfulness, a life which began with a simple refusal to compromise in a day of “small things.” The long shadow of Daniel is a robe, a flowing train, of righteousness, which resulted in the construction of a Bridal city. God is faithful in transforming a life of faithful witness into a legacy that benefits many generations.
If you are new to this method of interpretation, please visit the Welcome page for some help to get you up to speed.