Monthly Archives: May 2019

The Orthodox Faith – Salvation History (6A)

One of the main themes of the Old Testament and the New Testament is that of the Temple in Jerusalem.

Before we look at the Jerusalem Temple as it existed in the time of Jesus, we have to look at its predecessor, the Tabernacle in the desert. At one time in the Old Testament God ordered Moses to make the Ark of the Covenant, which was a gold-covered wooden box with a lid and a cover. (If we know about the movie from the 1980s, this is the ark in the title “Raiders of the Lost Ark”) This ark, or box contained the two tablets of the Ten Commandments, a golden jar holding manna and Aaron’s Rod, which budded.

“…. having the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, which contained a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant.” (Heb 9:4)

This ark was carried by the Hebrews as they travelled in the desert. It was a truly holy object, in which God’s presence was strongly felt. Because it was so holy when the Hebrews camped it was put into a special, richly-decorated tent called a Tabernacle. The description of the Tabernacle is found in Exodus chapters 25-30.

The Tabernacle in the desert was a large, rectanglar tent which was erected whenever the Hebrews settled down in a camp. It had three sections. The first section was where people first entered. The second was called the Holy Place. The altar of incense was there. Finally there was the Holy of Holies where the Ark of the Covenant was located. As the name implies this was the most sacred place in the Tabernacle. It is described in Exodus.

“And you shall make a veil of blue and purple and scarlet stuff and fine twined linen; in skilled work shall it be made, with cherubim; and you shall hang it upon four pillars of acacia overlaid with gold, with hooks of gold, upon four bases of silver. And you shall hang the veil from the clasps and bring the ark of the testimony in thither within the veil; and the veil shall separate for you the holy place from the most holy. You shall put the mercy seat upon the ark of the testimony in the most holy place. And you shall set the table outside the veil, and the lampstand on the south side of the tabernacle opposite the table; and you shall put the table on the north side. “And you shall make a screen for the door of the tent, of blue and purple and scarlet stuff and fine twined linen, embroidered with needlework. And you shall make for the screen five pillars of acacia and overlay them with gold; their hooks shall be of gold, and you shall cast five bases of bronze for them. You shall make the altar of acacia wood, five cubits long and five cubits broad; the altar shall be square, and its height shall be three cubits. And you shall make horns for it on its four corners; its horns shall be of one piece with it, and you shall overlay it with bronze.” (Ex 26:31-27:2)

Eventually, after the Hebrews had entered the Promised Land and became a settled kingdom, the Temple in Jerusalem was constructed by King Solomon. This temple was attacked and damaged several times by the enemies of the Hebrews, and finally was completely destroyed by the Babylonians in 585 BC when Jerusalem was attacked and the Jewish people were taken into captivity in Babylon.

The Second Temple was built between 538-515. This Temple was renovated and expanded by King Herod the Great in 20 BC. This is the Temple that existed in the time of Jesus. This Temple was destroyed in 70 AD by the Romans and followed the same pattern as the Tabernacle, but in a much more elaborate way. The layout was as follows: First came the Courts of the Gentiles or non-Jews. This was the only part of the Temple that non-Jews could enter. As a matter of fact, if a non-Jew went further than this he could be put to death. To see how seriously this was taken we can take an example from the Book of Acts. St. Paul was in Jerusalem with Trophimus, a gentile (non-Jew) convert to Christianity. The Jews believe that St. Paul brought him into the temple beyond the Court of the Gentiles. This is how the Jews reacted:

“When the seven days were almost completed, the Jews from Asia, who had seen him in the temple, stirred up all the crowd, and laid hands on him, crying out, “Men of Israel, help! This is the man who is teaching men everywhere against the people and the law and this place; moreover he also brought Greeks into the temple, and he has defiled this holy place.” For they had previously seen Troph’imus the Ephesian with him in the city, and they supposed that Paul had brought him into the temple. Then all the city was aroused, and the people ran together; they seized Paul and dragged him out of the temple, and at once the gates were shut. And as they were trying to kill him, word came to the tribune of the cohort that all Jerusalem was in confusion. He at once took soldiers and centurions, and ran down to them; and when they saw the tribune and the soldiers, they stopped beating Paul. (Acts 21:27-32)

In other words, the Jews wanted to kill St. Paul for brining a non-Jew into the Temple. There was such a disturbance that Roman troops were called to calm things down.

Next was the Court of the Women. Then the Court of the Israelites, where any ritually pure Jewish man could enter. After this we have the Court of the priest then the temple court, where the altar of sacrifice was located. Finally, we get to the Holy of Holies. The Holy of Holies was the holiest place in the Temple. This was where the Ark of the Covenant was kept in the Tabernacle in the first Temple. But as we have seen it disappeared with the destruction of the first Temple. Only the High Priest cold enter this part of the Temple. He would enter it once a year on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), the holiest day of the Jewish year.

Fr. John

The Orthodox Faith – Salvation History (5b)

It is worth noting that Pentecost means fifty, the fifty days after Easter. The old law was given fifty days after the Passover and the new law is given fifty days after Easter. We see this in the Acts of the Apostles,

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. (Acts 2:1-4)

This experience of receiving the Holy Spirit is obviously not the giving of a new written moral law (the Ten Commandants are always valid), but rather the old law is now written on human hearts. This is “inspiration” in the truest sense because inspiration literally means the going in of the Spirit. In that way the external law of Moses is fulfilled by the internal laws of Christ.

But he who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer that forgets but a doer that acts, he shall be blessed in his doing. …. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. (James 1:25, 2:12)

For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:2-4)

To make an additional point, we know that in Old Testament times lambs (and other animals) were sacrificed in order to receive forgiveness of sins. However, the blood of the lambs could never change humanity inwardly.

“For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices which are continually offered year after year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered? If the worshipers had once been cleansed, they would no longer have any consciousness of sin. But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sin year after year. For it is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins. And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, then to wait until his enemies should be made a stool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.”  (Heb 10:1-4, 11-14)

But Jesus Christ is the true Lamb of God whose self-sacrifice on the cross and subsequent resurrection earned for humanity a genuine forgiveness of sins and reconcilement with God:

“Then he showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. There shall no more be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and his servants shall worship him; they shall see his face, and his name shall be on their foreheads. And night shall be no more; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they shall reign for ever and ever. (Rev 22:1-5)

Or in another passage

“… they will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful.” (Rev 17:14)

So, when we look at all the history of the Bible we see Jesus Christ as the fulfilling of events and persons in the Old Testament. One of the most important fulfillments is that of the Paschal lamb. We know in the Old Testament as God was about to free the Hebrew people from slavery he order4ed the Jews to sacrifice a lamb and smear its blood on their door. In this way, the angel of God who was sent to slay the first-born sons of the Egyptians, would know not to kill the children of the Israelites inside the house. So, the death of the lamb in the Old Testament which saved the Hebrews from death foreshadowed the New Testament when the blood of Christ, the true lamb, saves all of humanity from death. St. John in his Gospel sys quite clearly that Jesus is the true lamb.

“… and he looked at Jesus as he walked, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” (John 1:36)

It is interesting that in Western liturgies we find the phrases

“Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us. “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us. “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, grant us Thy peace.”

This takes place just before the breaking of the Eucharistic bread (i.e, the Body of Christ). The priest elevates it and says “The Body of Christ” so the people can see it and the priest continues “Behold the Lamb of God, behold Him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.”

In these prayers we see clearly that we are saved from death by the sacrificial death of Christ, which foreshadowed in the Old Testament and is fulfilled in the New Testament and in the Liturgy of the Church.

Fr. John