Beale, G. K. and Mitchell Kim. God Dwells Among Us: A Biblical Theology of the Temple. ESBT. Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Academic, 2022. xv+176 pp. Pb. $24.00 Link to IVP Academic
This new volume in IVP Academic’s Essential Studies in Biblical Theology series edited by Benjamin Gladd summarizes Beale’s NSBT volume, The Temple and the Church’s Mission (IVP Academic, 2004). Kim distills the substance and basic thesis of The Temple and the Church’s Mission. What is missing in the new volume? The original book covered the whole canon, with additional material from ancient Near Eastern temple imagery and Second Temple literature. In keeping with the goals of this series, the book limits the extensive argumentation found the previous volume, although footnotes often point to relevant pages in The Temple and the Church’s Mission.
Mitchell Kim (PhD, Wheaton College) is senior pastor of Wellspring Alliance Church in the Chicago suburbs. He developed a seven-week sermon series based on the original book, which he then turned into seminars given at various conferences. The result is a more pastoral book, as is befitting the tone ESBT series.
The bulk of this book traces Beale’s original argument that the Garden of Eden was a temple. God commissioned Adam as a priest to expand that temple to fill the entire world. Sin disrupted this commission, resulting in Adam’s exile from the garden. This is the typological template for the rest of the Bible. For example, “the Tabernacle is Eden remixed” (p. 38) and the temple extends the Tabernacle. The Holy of Holies represents the presence of God, the Holy Place represents the visible heavens and the presence of God with his people, and the outer court represents the presence of God in the midst of an impure people. Beale and Kim draw parallels between the creation of the world and the construction of the sanctuary (p. 41). Like Adam, Israel failed in their role and went into exile. The prophets described the return from exile as a quote “restoration of Eden” (p. 52), citing Isaiah 51 for example.
The ultimate restoration of the temple is in the person and work of Jesus Christ in the gospels. Beginning with John 2:13-17, Beale and Kim argue Jesus saw himself as a replacement for the temple which would be destroyed (crucifixion) and rebuilt (resurrection). Jesus uses temple language drawn from Psalm 118: 22- 23: Jesus is the Temple cornerstone. Beale and Kim see the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) as creation/temple imagery as well. They draw attention to parallels in Daniel 7:13-14: the Ancient of Days gives his authority to the son of man to rule all people, nations, and languages and his kingdom will never be destroyed.
The life of the church embodies the theme of Jesus as temple. “The church is the true temple of God” (p. 84). Beale and Kim point out there are many passages in the New Testament that describe the church as a temple (although one could point to another set of texts which describe the church as a body). For Beale and Kim, these passages show how the Old Testament prophecies of a restored temple begin to be fulfilled in the church. “The temple is not simply a metaphor for the church, but the church commenced as an actual temple at Pentecost (Acts 2)” (p. 85). But they are careful to point out that Old Testament prophecies of a future temple are fulfilled in the church. Christians are the beginning of the fulfillment of the prophecy of an end time temple. They argue Ezekiel 37:26-27 does not prophesy a literal architectural temple in the future, but the end time presence of God with his people. Pentecost is the inauguration of a rebuilt temple in the church which anticipates the building of a final spiritual temple at the end of the age as a fulfillment of Old Testament temple prophecies. “Since the eschatological temple has been inaugurated, we should not look forward to a return of an imperfect stage of the physical temple’s existence” (141). Beale and Kim understand Old Testament prophecies of an apparently future architectural temple in terms of predictions of a non-architectural structure.
For some readers, this sounds like allegorizing Old Testament prophecy. However, Beale and Kim state: “this approach does not employ allegorical methods of interpretation or uncontrolled reading of symbols” (143). The control is the temple metaphor from Genesis. This temple imagery read typologically throughout the canon of scripture. But this is the issue: where does legitimate biblical typology end and “controlled allegorizing” begin? What if Genesis 1-3 does not present Eden as a Temple or Adam as a commissioned priest? Daniel Block has recently questioned the popular view that the author of Genesis intentionally used temple imagery for the Garden of Eden (Covenant, Baker Academic 2021, pp. 27-28). Certainly, the tabernacle and temple used creation imagery, but did the author of Genesis use temple imagery? For Block, the cosmos is a royal world (kingdom?) and God deputized Adam as an administrator to govern God’s royal creation. Block (and many others) uses covenant as a way of unifying the canon rather than temple imagery.
Beale and Kim add two chapters after the presentation of the main thesis. A big question some readers will have is: “why haven’t I seen this before?” First, temple cosmology is not modern cosmology. Modern thinkers are unaware of ancient Near Eastern temple symbolism. The second reason is a lack of attention to biblical unity. Many Bible readers focus on individual stories in the Old and New Testaments, but not on the overarching biblical narrative. Perhaps. But the market is flooded with “Drama of Scripture” type books and dispensationalism has been doing this kind of narrative theology at a popular level for a century. Third, there is a general lack of attention to typology in history when studying the canon of scripture. For Beale and Kim, the death and resurrection of Christ fulfills all the Old Testament temple prophecies. A judicious use of typology “brings greater awareness of the rich interconnectedness of scripture” (140).
The final chapter of the book offers a few concluding practical reflections on how the “church as temple” metaphor plays out in church life. Beginning with Romans 12:1, believers are called to be living sacrifices. Like ideal temple worship from the Old Testament, Christian mission should draw on the power of God’s word and the power of prayer.
Conclusion. God Dwells Among Us succeeds as a popular presentation of Greg Beale’s more detailed The Temple and the Church’s Mission. For readers familiar with the earlier work, there is not much new here, but many will find this an engaging introduction to typology and temple imagery as a unifying biblical theme.
Other reviewed commentaries in Essentials of Biblical Theology series:
- Benjamin L. Gladd, From Adam and Israel to the Church: A Biblical Theology of the People of God
- Matthew S. Harmon, Rebels and Exiles: A Biblical Theology of Sin and Restoration
- L. Michael Morales, Exodus Old and New: A Biblical Theology of Redemption
- T. Desmond Alexander, Face to Face with God: A Biblical Theology of Christ as Priest and Mediator
NB: Thanks to IVP Academic for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.