This two part post will be my final interaction with Steve Hays. It will complete what I think needs to be said and will leave him to continue in the way he is accustomed to. I begin with a little preamble. In his latest salvo Steve quotes me as saying:
On his accounting I ought to doubt my salvation.
Then he quips:
Why does Henebury react this way? He said that if amils are right, then God is guilty of prevarication. I inferred from his statement that he doesn’t think God is trustworthy if amils are right. Isn’t that a logical inference? Why does he object when I measure him by his own yardstick? Is that a mature reaction?
Let me put my quote back into its original context and leave the reader to decide if Steve is trying to properly represent his opponent:
I actually said this:
Steve Hays continues to slam my character: Henebury really is a bigot you know. He has “consistent intellectual deficiencies.” Henebury has all kinds of flaws, ethical, intellectual, perceptual. It has now come to my notice that apparently “Henebury never misses an opportunity to be dishonest.”
Steve doesn’t know me, but he thinks he’s sized me up and I’m no good. On his accounting I ought to doubt my salvation. Where is the fruit of the Spirit? Well, to his own Master he stands or falls. My duty is to stick to the argument.
Take a parable. What the individual elements of the parable signify is distinct from the question of whether the story is fictitious or factual…
In reply I said: True, but Ezekiel 40-48 is not a parable. Neither is it “apocalyptic,” nor poetry.
Yet in his “response” he declares:
And Henebury now admits that’s “true.” So, given that admission, he can’t simply quote verses about temple dimensions, materials, rituals, &c., to prove his overall interpretation, for how we interpret the significance of the paraphernalia depends on the genre.
What did I say was “true”? That interpretation depends on genre? Or did I simply agree that what individual elements of parables signify is distinct from whether the story is fictitious or factual?
Compare Steve’s representations with the real ones and come to a conclusion. Even if you are unconvinced by my arguments I hope you would see the problem. Nuff said!
Steve persists in his persistent use of personal slight and ad hominem argumentation while subtly deviating from the point. I shall ignore most of this in what follows. If some readers think I’m deserving of the opprobrium heaped upon me that it between them and God. A quick search on Google will produce many complaints about Steve Hays from Christians both Reformed and non-Reformed, Roman Catholics, and Atheists. As I said, to his own master he stands or falls. I consider most of Steve’s arguments to be paltry and lacking any substance. I’m afraid he advances his viewpoint mainly by bald assertion. Others are free to arrive at the opposite conclusion.
1. The Prophetic Setting of Ezekiel 40-48
One of the problems of dealing with Hays is that while he lumps me in with the general run of dispensationalists he will not permit me to cite his fellow covenant theologians against him; especially when they admit to reinterpreting the OT with the NT, or to spiritualizing the text. See Here. On a side note, if Daniel Block believes Paul spiritualized the OT it’s a safe bet he believes in following suit!
Steve avoids dealing with the following point I made because he says the passages cited are too generic:
He thinks they couldn’t divine a future glorious kingdom where Israel is regenerate and Messiah reigns in justice and righteousness from Jerusalem, and where priests serve him in a new sanctuary. In fact they could do this from say, Num. 25:10-13; Deut. 30:6f., or Psa. 2, 89, 105, 106, Isa. 2, 11, 26-27, 35, 43, 44, 45, 51, 62; Jer. 23, 30, 31, 33, or Hos. 2:16f. or Mic. 4, or Zeph. 3, or indeed from Ezek. 34, 36-37. It seems Ezekiel’s near contemporary Zechariah (6:12-13, 8:1-3; 14:16f.) and Malachi (3:2-3) believed it too. Zechariah predicts a future temple built after Jerusalem has been changed topographically where the King is worshiped at the temple.
He wants me to do some exegesis of these passages and I shall oblige him without expecting reciprocation. Owing to the nature of blog posts my comments must be concise. Still, I apologize for the length but a fair bit of this is necessary quotations from Scripture.
I am going to go into all the covenantal issues in all this in the future, but the following study should suffice for now: Balaam’s prophecy [Correction: I don't know why I said Balaam's prophecy. Clearly it isn't] will start us off (please read the passages!):
Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 11 “Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, has turned away My wrath from the sons of Israel in that he was jealous with My jealousy among them, so that I did not destroy the sons of Israel in My jealousy. 12 “Therefore say, ‘Behold, I give him My covenant of peace; 13 and it shall be for him and his descendants after him, a covenant of a perpetual priesthood, because he was jealous for his God and made atonement for the sons of Israel.'” (Num 25:10 -13)
There is no need to go into minute exegesis of this passage to see that God freely enters into an eternal covenant with Phinehas and his descendents – who happen to include Zadokites! Psalm 106:30-31 recounts:
Then Phinehas stood up and intervened, And the plague was stopped. 31 And that was accounted to him for righteousness To all generations forevermore.
If this is true; that is, if God meant what He said in the covenant (and covenants have to mean what they say), then whether or not we can figure out the whys and wherefores, there has to be a Levitical priesthood and temple forever in fulfillment of this covenant. This is stressed further by Jeremiah in Jer. 33:
‘Behold, days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when I will fulfill the good word which I have spoken concerning the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 15 ‘In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch of David to spring forth; and He shall execute justice and righteousness on the earth. 16 ‘In those days Judah shall be saved, and Jerusalem shall dwell in safety; and this is the name by which she shall be called: the LORD is our righteousness.’ 17 “For thus says the LORD, ‘David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel; 18 and the Levitical priests shall never lack a man before Me to offer burnt offerings, to burn grain offerings, and to prepare sacrifices continually.'” (Jer 33:14-18)
Notice the role of the Branch (i.e. Christ). He “executes” or “does” righteousness on the land (eretz). This agrees with Isaiah 2:2-4 (set “in the last days”). Micah is very similar (Mic. 4:1-7, where we are told that God “will reign over [the Remnant] in Mount Zion from now on [the last days – v.1] and forever.”).
The righteous rule of Messiah is seen in Isaiah 11. Verses 5 and 6 declare:
with righteousness He will judge the poor, And decide with fairness for the afflicted of the earth; And He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, [Comp. Psalm 2:8-9; Rev. 19:15] And with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked. 5 Also righteousness will be the belt about His loins, And faithfulness the belt about His waist.
The righteous reign of Messiah is seen in statements like Isa. 26:9; 51:3-5; 62:1-5. The paradisaical conditions described in Isa. 62:1-5 involve the whole creation, as Hosea 2:16f. and Isaiah 11:6-8 make perfectly clear (Cf. Rom. 8:18-23). Hosea 2:18-19 say,
In that day I will also make a covenant for them With the beasts of the field, The birds of the sky, And the creeping things of the ground. And I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land, And will make them lie down in safety. 19 “And I will betroth you [i.e. Israel] to Me forever; Yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and in justice, In lovingkindness and in compassion.
So in Ezekiel 37:25-28 we read of God setting up His sanctuary under these fulfillment conditions:
And they shall live on the land that I gave to Jacob My servant, in which your fathers lived; and they will live on it, they, and their sons, and their sons’ sons, forever; and David My servant shall be their prince forever. 26 “And I will make a covenant of peace with them [Cf. Num. 25:12 above]; it will be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will place them and multiply them, and will set My sanctuary in their midst forever. 27 “My dwelling place also will be with them; and I will be their God, and they will be My people. 28 “And the nations will know that I am the LORD who sanctifies Israel, when My sanctuary is in their midst forever.
Please do not miss the heavy covenantal emphasis of that prophecy. The sanctuary is the temple. But which temple? Zerubbabel’s? Did God make an everlasting covenant of peace with the returnees? Did His Glory return to the Second Temple? No. The temple being referred to is the one in Ezek. 40ff., which IS in paradisiacal conditions (ch. 47), when God shall dwell with Israel forever (43:7).
We may add to this the prediction from Malachi 3:2-3, which speaks of a purified priesthood in what appears to be (contra Steve Hays) a Second Advent context (Mal. 3:1 does refer to the First Advent):
But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. 3 “And He will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to the LORD offerings in righteousness.
If all this is not enough we find Zechariah predicting a temple which will be built by the Branch (Messiah) when He combines the offices of priest and king in Himself when He rules upon His throne (Zech. 6:12-13). And what do we find at the end of the Book? We find, as I have said many times, a Day when the Lord comes to the Mount of Olives (Acts 1:11 anyone?), when the topography of the land is drastically altered (Zech. 14:4), following which “living waters will flow out of Jerusalem (Zec 14:8), “Jerusalem will dwell in security” (Zec 14:11), and the nations will come up to Jerusalem to worship the King – who therefore must be Divine – (14:16-17), and sacrifices will be offered at the Lord’s house (14:20-21).
As these predictions are predicated on what we now know is the Second Coming, clearly they are in the future and their realization should not be searched for in the past. The conditions under which all this will be done are New covenant conditions (Cf. Zech. 12:9-13:1):
Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. 26 “Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 “And I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances. 28 “And you will live in the land that I gave to your forefathers; so you will be My people, and I will be your God. (Ezek. 36:25-28)
This distinctive new covenant language comes from the Pentateuch. For example, Deuteronomy 30:6:
Moreover the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, in order that you may live.
Amillennialists might want to turn all of these passages into metaphors (and they do), but they make perfect sense as they stand. There is no mess. We don’t have all the information, but we have enough. Once amils try to tackle the specifics of these passages, that’s when the train wrecks. So, for the most part, they don’t even try. They just read their interpretations of the NT into them. Steve says he doesn’t. He stands quite alone.
Howbeit, it is imperative when dealing with these prophecies that the covenantal stipulations which God obligates Himself to fulfill are not breezed over. I have my presuppositions, which Steve has been given. They do not produce the mess Steve asserts they do. Steve will not give his.
2. Did the Post-Exilic Community Expect to Build Ezekiel’s Temple?
I have already given reasons why the returning exiles would not have thought to take up the task of constructing Ezekiel’s temple. These include the obvious fact of the sheer size of the structure, together with the geographical requirements involved. Then the clear differences between the Mosaic institutions and Ezekiel’s vision. Finally, the fact that these chapters are prophetic and look to the time when God’s covenants with Israel will be realized under New Covenant conditions: conditions which have not yet been met, but which shall be met “after the fullness of the Gentiles has come in” (Rom. 11:24-27).
If, as Steve Hays says, the people in exile enjoyed better access to God than when they were in the land, why rebuild any temple? Hays answers, it is because they were under the Law. But were not the exiles under the Law? If they were and God was more accessible to them during those times, it follows that rebuilding the temple would again distance them from God. This makes no sense at all. But were not Israel under God’s judgment during the exile? Deuteronomy 29:14-28 leaves this impression. Chapters 29:19 and 30:1 speak of exile as a “curse.” Leviticus 26:36 hardly depicts the future exiles having confident access to the Lord. 2 Kings 24:20 describes the Lord’s attitude towards Israel as “He cast them out from His presence.” Jeremiah is blunt: “The Lord has rejected His altar, He has abandoned His sanctuary.” (Lam 2:7). (more…)