Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Binding & Loosing (part 1)

I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven.  Whatever you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven, and whatever you release on earth will have been released in heaven. – Matthew 16:19  (NET)

When reading about earth and heaven, especially within the pages of the Gospels, one must stubbornly resist the urge to retreat into an unhelpful, Platonic-form-derived, enlightenment-driven, separation of earth from heaven.  Instead, the reader must become ensconced within the notion that the disciples of Jesus and the community of believers that sprung from their sharing of the testimony of Jesus in the days, weeks, months, and years following His Resurrection, actually operated from the point of view that the purpose of the Creator God---the God of Israel---was to bring heaven to earth. 

The disciples and the earliest followers of Jesus did not live so that they could be saved and go to heaven when they died.  Rather, they functioned with the idea that it was their responsibility to work with the Creator God to cause the overlap of His realm of existence with the realm of existence occupied by the creatures that He had created and empowered to bear His image. 

Accordingly then, the place that was said to be occupied by that God, which would be the Temple (the house of God), would be the primary locus of that overlapping activity.  With that said, it then greatly behooves the reader to realize that reference to “heaven and earth,” when made by members of the house of Israel such as Jesus, are generally references to the Temple, both specifically and in general.  As an aside, the fact that the words of this study’s Scriptural thrust text, with their talk of earth and heaven, are directed to Peter, helps to make sense of the fact that the letters of the New Testament that are attributed to Peter also make mention of heaven and earth (especially chapter three of first Peter). 

Yes, the Temple was the place of the coming together of heaven and earth.  Any reference to “heaven and earth,” especially if it is in the context of talk of the Temple, is a reference to the Temple itself.  In Matthew, this talk of heaven, earth, and Temple prompts a brief look at Matthew twenty-four.  There, as He answers the question about when the Temple will be cast down with not one stone left upon another (with an allusion to the oft-referenced-by-Jesus-in-Matthew prophecy of Isaiah), Jesus can be heard saying “the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of heaven will be shaken” (24:29).  

Though Jesus’ allusion to Isaiah ends there, Isaiah would continue on to eventually write “So I will shake the heavens, and the earth will shake loose from its foundation” (13:13a).  Isaiah was referring to Jerusalem and the Temple being overcome by Babylon, using apocalyptic language (behind the veil---the way that Israel’s God sees things) of heaven and earth that reaches beyond mere symbolism and drama, conveying Jewish opinion concerning the Temple---the place where heaven and earth came together. 

The tradition of such thinking concerning the house of God reached all the way back to Jacob, as it is when he is in Bethel (translation: the house of God), that he has the dream in which a ladder reached from earth to heaven, with the angels of his God ascending and descending upon said ladder.  Yes, what must be recognized in that scene is that the house of God (Bethel) is where and heaven and earth came together, by the instrumentation of this ladder.  

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