One new humanity. There are many ways that I could come at this topic. There’s the story of our church, Peoples Church Cincinnati. There’s the theology of it. There’s the societal need for it. There’s the need of the Church itself, to become who she is called to be to accomplish what she’s been purchased for, by His blood. And oh, how the earth would be different, and will be, different. All of these are different angles from which we could come to the content of this blog post.
But let me start with the story in Acts 20. We can all see that for ourselves. Paul calls for a meeting of the elders of Ephesus. He’s on his last trip back to Jerusalem. His last time ever. But on the way back he has the ship pull into the harbor at Miletus, and from that coastal town calls for a meeting of the Ephesian elders who come down from 20 miles or so north. It might be good that you take a minute to read the story.
Paul pours out his heart to the elders. He reminds them of all that he has taught them. The complete plan of God, the whole will or counsel of God. He warns them with all intensity; defend what you’ve been given! People will try to tear this up. Don't let it happen!
What was it that so drove Paul to make such an energy-consuming stop to make sure he had this final meeting with the Ephesian crew that he’d already lived among and taught so earnestly for three years? What was this “complete plan” that Luke has Paul referring to in Acts 20:27?
Before we drive into the answer to that question allow me to share another story. The story of two temples, starting with the one in Ezekiel.
If you're like me, you’ve always wondered what is this temple? After all, it’s never been built. And yes, we have made some attempts at fitting it into certain eschatological frameworks, but at a very basic level, it’s just confusing! No one knows what it means!
Why has God gone to such detail to have Ezekiel describe this never built temple? Not only has it never been built--it’s not Solomon’s temple, nor Ezra’s, nor Herod’s--but it seems to pre-figure a temple in the New City, the Revelation 21-22 new Jerusalem, both with living water flowing from them with trees on both sides of the river for healing. There’s just ONE PROBLEM: Revelation 21:22 says there's NO TEMPLE in the city because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple!
So, what is this temple in Ezekiel? Could it be a prefiguring of the temple of the Lord in the New Covenant, the people of God? I was studying Ezekiel 43:10 and seeking the Lord in preparation for writing a book. I couldn’t leave Ezek. 43:8-11 for several days. Then this happened:
As I was prayerfully meditating over Ezek. 43:10-11 for the dozenth time or so, “Son of man, describe the temple to the people of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their sins. Let them consider its perfection, and if they are ashamed of all they have done, make known to them the design of the temple--its arrangement, it's exits and entrances--its whole design and all its regulations and laws,” suddenly this hits me: He's not talking about a physical temple in physical Jerusalem, He’s talking about His people, the temple of the Lord. I immediately felt prompted to look at Ephesians 2:21, “In Him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.” Both Ezekiel and Paul are speaking spiritually about the same thing!
Now, I was stunned. Two major inspirations were converging...Paul’s Acts 20 Ephesian elders meeting on the beach at Miletus (the complete plan of God talk) and Ezekiel’s 43:10-11 temple description. The Lord was telling Ezekiel, “make known to my people the whole design” of the temple, make known its perfection, and Paul was also saying, “I gave you the whole plan/counsel of God,” with tears and trembling, night and day over 3 years! Later, in his book to the Ephesian church outlining the plan in detail, Paul calls them a temple (Eph. 2:21).
And both temples lead to living water rivers, in Ezekiel 47 and in Revelation 21-22, with trees on either side for the healing of the nations. For Ezekiel, it’s from under the threshold of the temple. From Paul and the New Testament “temple,” or Bride, it’s from under the throne of the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb who “are its temple” at the center of the Holy City (Rev. 21:22), the city also called a Bride (Rev. 21:9). Somewhere Jesus said, “In your own Law it is written that the testimony of two witnesses is true.” John 8:17
Now, again, if you’re like me you need some time to think on this and look at these scriptures for yourself. As you do, ask the Holy Spirit to illuminate to you what you are reading. He does that for us. He will do that for you. And if what I’m thinking is wrong, thanks for reading this blog post! Obviously, you can just ignore the rest of what I will share. : )
So what are we talking about?
I’m glad you asked. I believe scripture reveals a comprehensive plan/purpose of God for His Church. How it’s designed, what it’s to be and what all it will do. I believe it’s a specific design set. And He refers to it as One New Humanity, a temple, a building, a Body, a Bride, and a Holy City. I also believe we’ve inadvertently, or sinfully, missed it. REALLY MISSED IT.
So, in the blogs to come, we will unpack these things: