G. K. Beale
Reviewed by: Mark Collingridge
Date posted: 12/17/2006
The Temple and the Church's Mission: A Biblical Theology of the Dwelling Place of God, by G. K. Beale. Published by Intervarsity Press, 2004. Paperback, 458 pages, list price $29.00. Reviewed by OP pastor Mark Collingridge.
The thesis of this book is that creation, patriarchal history, old covenant history, and new covenant history (in both its inaugurated and consummated phases) are unified by the theme of the temple as the dwelling place of God.
The world was created to be a temple, the sanctuary of God. Because of the Fall, God's temple-building process proceeded through promise and type, before reaching fulfillment in Jesus Christ. "The Old Testament tabernacle and temples were symbolically designed to point to the cosmic eschatological reality that God's tabernacling presence, formerly limited to the holy of holies, was to be extended throughout the whole earth" (p. 25).
He demonstrates his thesis in two ways. First, he works through the biblical evidence. The lasting value of this book is found in these sections. Secondly, he interacts with extrabiblical evidence.
Beale begins with Israel's temple. He demonstrates that it had cosmic overtones and dimensions in its structure, furniture, and other features. It was a localized heaven and earth, with its three portions corresponding to the threefold structure of creation. It was a type of the temple in John's vision, where God's glorious presence fills heaven and earth (Rev. 21).
He then considers Eden as the original temple in which God dwelt with man, the king and priest. He identifies the cosmic dimensions of Eden and the purpose of Eden to encompass the whole earth (Gen. 1: 28). Beale then traces with great insight the garden imagery of temples coming after Eden. His discussion of 1 Corinthians 3 is most helpful in this regard (pp. 245ff.). He discusses the relevant passages in the New Testament, from the Gospels to Revelation.
Beale also shows that these temples were intended to be expanded. The charge given to Adam to multiply and fill the earth by extending the borders of Eden (the first temple) was then given by promise to those in redemptive history. These two features (the temple and its expansion) account for the title of the book. God is building his church, and this is often pictured as an expanding and growing temple (Eph. 2; 1 Cor. 3).
The application of this second feature is the only weakness in the book. Beale applies the mandate to expand the temple to Noah and Israel. However, the Bible indicates that Noah's labors were related to common grace, not to God's temple-building program. And Israel is never pictured as expanding its temple outside the land of Canaan. Israel and the temple were never intended to be universal. Only when God announced the arrival of a new and better covenant did Israel (Christ) become a light to the Gentiles.
Pastors should read this book for its success in finding a unifying principle within the Scriptures. It shows the big picture of God's kingdom administration. Throughout this book are fine exegetical discussions and insights. Because Beale relies heavily on the original languages, more casual readers will struggle a bit. However, it would still be of great benefit to them to read it.