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The Christmas Conspiracy




"The Mountain of the House of the LORD
Will be established as the chief of the mountains,
And each of them shall sit under his
Vine and under his fig tree
With no one to make them afraid
Micah 4:1,4

The Presence of God

A Calvinist Catechism of the 1640's asked, "What is the Chief End of Man?" and answered,

"The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever."

A modern catechism might answer,

"Man's [excuse me, "A person's"] chief end is to gain his or her own self-esteem [glory] and enjoy him- or herself forever."

But if God is the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe, our focus must be on God, not ourselves. Only the Creator has a right to be Self-centered, and the creature is obligated by nature to honor that.

But our Creator is not arbitrary and selfishly tyrannical. When we were created, our Creator placed us in a beautiful Garden. We will see all the wonderful gifts associated with this Garden, but the most important feature of the Garden of Eden was God's Presence. From the first day of creation, when the Spirit fluttered over the waters, to the frightening Coming of God in judgment (Genesis 3:8), God's Presence was in the Garden. We do well to examine His Presence; God's Presence with His People is the very heart of the Gospel (Isaiah 7:14), and we shall see the wonderful promises for the earth as God's special Presence is manifested.

"In the beginning God created the Heaven and the Earth."

What, then, did God do in verses 6-8?

Genesis 1:6-8 Then God said, "Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters." {7} Thus God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament; and it was so. {8} And God called the firmament Heaven. So the evening and the morning were the second day.

We are faced with at least two "heavens," one visible and the other invisible (cf. 2 Corinthians 12:2). The invisible heaven is the throne of God (Nehemiah 9:5ff.; Psalm 103:19f.; Psalm 148:1-4; Colossians 1:16). This makes it clear that the entire universe was designed to be God's temple. The heavens are His Throne and the Earth His footstool (Isaiah 66:1).[1]

Psalm 103:19-22 The LORD has established His throne in heaven, And His kingdom rules over all. {20} Bless the LORD, you His angels, Who excel in strength, who do His word, Heeding the voice of His word. {21} Bless the LORD, all you His hosts, You ministers of His, who do His pleasure. {22} Bless the LORD, all His works, In all places of His dominion. Bless the LORD, O my soul!

The Spirit of Garden-Creation

Then we read this remarkable statement:

And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved (or, fluttered) upon the face of the waters (Genesis 1:2).

Our understanding of the nature and function of the Spirit in Genesis 1:2 is informed by Moses' comments in another passage, Deuteronomy 32:10-11. There we are told that God's Presence with Israel in the wilderness, the Glory-Cloud, is the same Spirit Who hovered over the infant creation. The action of the Glory-Cloud is that of fluttering, the same word as in Genesis 1:2, and the only other time Moses uses the word. The wilderness is called a "waste," the same word translated "without form" in Genesis 1:2, and, again, the only other time Moses uses the word.[2]

The description of the Glory-Cloud as fluttering or hovering over Israel with outspread wings is appropriate not only because of the protective function the Spirit had, but because of the composition of this Divine Cloud. When the Prophet Ezekiel penetrates the thick cloud in his vision, the Cloud is seen to be alive with the winged seraphim and cherubim. The sound of the coming of the Cloud is the sound of wings (Ezekiel 1:24; 10:5).

The theologians call this Cloud a "theophany," meaning a visible manifestation of God, in this case, the enthroned Presence of God with His People. The Old Testament often uses the term Spirit as a synonym for the Cloud, ascribing the same functions to both (Nehemiah 9:19-20; Isaiah 4:4-5; Joel 2:28-31; Haggai 2:5).

The Spirit-Cloud of Genesis 1-3 is a miniature of the invisible heavens, a coming forth of the Lord of Glory out of invisibility into a special earth-oriented manifestation. His purpose is that of Covenant Creation and (in 3:8) Judgment. It is the Royal Temple; Spirit-directed, propelled by the winged angels, moving with the speed of light to execute the sentence of the King.

Given the information in the Creation and Exodus accounts, we can see that the Glory-Cloud of Genesis 1:2 was a model of the invisible throne of God, and its purpose was to create a "micro-cosmic" replica of the cosmos-temple of God. The Spirit's Presence in the Garden made Eden the Garden-Temple of God.

Not surprisingly, within this Garden, the Spirit works to create man as a dwelling place for the Royal Image of God. Man is also the Temple of God, for God dwells there.

The Christmas Conspiracy is the message of these same angels, re-creating Eden:

Angels from the realms of glory
Wing your flight o'er all the earth
Ye who sang creation's story
Now proclaim Messiah's birth.[3]

The Spirit of Judgment

In Salvation, God comes to us, and we are invited into God's Presence, returned to His Garden-Temple. But the Presence of God in the Garden is also provoked by the Fall of Man:

"And they heard the voice of the LORD God traversing in the Garden as the Spirit of the Day[4]: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the Presence of the LORD. . ." (Genesis 3:8).

Was their hiding prompted by an acknowledgement of their sin? Not likely, as the narrative goes on to show. They were afraid of the thunderous, awesome voice of the LORD. Ezekiel report the frightening sound of wheels and wings that he calls the "Voice of the LORD" (Ezekiel 1:24; 3:13); the roar of the Cloud-Chariot of the LORD, coming in judgments that convulse creation and confound the kings of the nations (Psalms 18:10-15; 68:33; 104:3,7). The Spirit's work here is that of judgment (cp. Isaiah 28:5-6; 4:4-6; Psalm 139:7,12). Likewise, in the Exodus of God's People from the Empire of Egypt, the Spirit-Cloud was a Spirit of judgment and of burning; judgment of God's enemies, but blessing and protection for His People. This parallels the two-edged nature of the Covenant: Blessings and Salvation for the obedient, Cursing for the faithless. Isaiah reflects on the Exodus and comforts us with the promise that Judgment promises to purge the faithless, who, after being humbled, seek the Presence of the Lord (Isaiah 4:4-6). Even judgment works for blessing.

Thus, the writer to the Hebrews explains our presence in the New Jerusalem as one that moves us to reverence and Godly fear (Hebrews 12:22-29). God's shaking of the kingdoms of man is no light-hearted affair. We may rejoice in His judgment of the unGodly, but we must also fear (2 Corinthians 13:5; 1 Corinthians 10:12). This fear will move us to reconciliation through judgment: Paul speaks of the New Creation emerging from the activity of those carrying on a "Ministry of Reconciliation" (2 Corinthians 5:17 + 18-19). But reconciliation presupposes metanoia, or "repentance," which in turn presupposes judgment. Reconciliation without judgment is a false reconciliation which glosses over the injustices. True harmony occurs when wrongdoing is squarely faced and metanoia takes place. In each of our lives the propaganda of Empire has taken root and bears the fruits of injustice. When judgment takes place, the temple is cleansed, the weeds are cleared, and Edenification takes place (1 Peter 4:17; Matthew 21:12-13; 3:10; Revelation 21:5-8).

The wonderful, encouraging blessings of the world-wide Prosperity of the Gospel and the Restoration of the cosmos does not come about through our inactivity, nor without the removal of those who resist the extension of Christ's Kingdom. Those who wish to build their own kingdom, thus "earning" their own "salvation," must face the sobering reality of the Spirit of Judgment. We too must be moved — to service, care, and a conciliatory spirit — by the awesome majesty of the Glory-Spirit in His work of Re-Creation, and the Judgment that accompanies it.

The Spirit of Re-Creation

Man's rebellion continually worked against God's direction. His rebellion was destructive of God's command to perfect the Garden and subdue the whole Earth.

After the sin of man occasioned the destruction of the world at the time of Noah, the Spirit was again there to pass over the earth and separate the land from the water (Genesis 8:1) and bring His people to a sabbath rest (Genesis 8:4), where the Garden-Mandate is again given (Genesis 8:15 - 9:7; cf. 1:26-28). A rainbow is set in the Cloud, which is always visible to God (Ezekiel 1:24; Revelation 4:3).

At the time of the Exodus, the Spirit again works toward re-creation. We have already seen how the Glory-Cloud, the Chariot-Throne of God, hovered over the People of God, giving them tokens of the New Garden-Creation even while in the wilderness (see section on Precious Stones, for example). But the most dramatic token of the New Creation was the tabernacle, under the Mountain where the Glory-Cloud spoke with Moses.

God's Spirit was His Presence with His People and was both truly present and symbolized by the Tabernacle and the Temple. Those who read those portions of Scripture that describe the construction of the Tabernacle and Temple (and how few they be!) begin to see that the Tabernacle, which was itself a picture of an Edenic Land, was also filled with the Presence of God in the Glory-Cloud (Exodus 40:34-38; cf. 2 Chronicles 5:13-14). Throughout the history of Redemption, God is present with His people, re-creating the conditions of the Garden.

God revealed His Presence to His people in the Cloud of Glory. The Cloud functioned as temporary, chariot-like throne-room by which He made His Presence known to His people. The Cloud was filled with innumerable angels (Deuteronomy 33:2; Psalm 68:17), and thus was a revelation of the invisible Heaven, where God is seated on His throne of glory, surrounded by His Heavenly Court, and Council (Exodus 24:9-15; Isaiah 6:1-4), and from which He spoke to Moses (Exodus 33:9; Psalm 99:7).

When the Tabernacle was completed, the Spirit-Cloud entered it and filled it with the Glory of God (Exodus 40:34-38; cf. 2 Chronicles 5:13-14). Moses, misunderstood by many in our day, was surely understood by his Hebrew readers to be saying that God's saving of His people through the Exodus was a re-creation of the Garden.

God's re-creation of His People in order to bring them into fellowship with Him in the Holy Mountain of the Promised Land was witnessed by the same manifestation of His Creative Presence as at the original Creation, when the Spirit gloriously arched His canopy over the land.

There are many more parallels. The Spirit brings light (Genesis 1:3; Exodus 14:21; John 1:3-5). He leads His People to the sabbath-rest in the Promised Land, the New Eden (Genesis 2:2-3; Deuteronomy 12:9-10, Psalm 95:11, where the land is called a rest). Perhaps the reader can think of more parallels.

The metaphor of God filling His tabernacle with His Spirit is found throughout Scripture. The reason that the Word — Who was with God "in the beginning" (John 1:1-18) — tabernacled among us (John 1:14), was ultimately so that God's Temple, the Church, would be re-admitted to Eden[5] and filled with the Glory-Spirit (Exodus 40:34; Numbers 9:5; Joel 2:28-31; Acts 2:1-4,16-21). The Church is now God's Garden-Temple, restored to God's original mandate: to have dominion over the earth and expand the Garden until it covers the whole world. God's desire is for His Temple to bring all nations to His Holy Mountain, making all His Earth-footstool His Garden (Isaiah 60:13; Ezekiel 43:8-9; Psalm 110:1 + Acts 2:34-36). In remaking us in His Image, God has given us His Presence. He has taken up residence in His Temple, and has promised to be with us as we fulfill His mandate to the ends of the earth (Matthew 28:18-20).

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[1] Following Meredith Kline's seminal work, Images of the Spirit (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1980), David Chilton writes,

The Garden of Eden thus served as a Tabernacle-Temple, a small replica of God's larger Temple and Palace in which the "heavens" are His throne and the "earth" is His footstool (Gen. 1:1; Isa. 66:1) — the invisible heavens together with the visible universe making up His great cosmic Temple. Close attention to the architecture of the Tabernacle and the Temple wil reveal that they were modeled as copies, not only of the Garden of Eden, but of the Original heavenly Temple: the Cloud-Canopy (cf. Heb. 8:5; 9:11,23-24).

For more on the "Cloud-Canopy," see below. Kline shows that even man himself is a replica of the Temple.

[2] See more below, under "Spirit of Re-Creation."

[3] note: James Montgomery, 1816, 1825

[4] The popular translation, "in the cool of the day," misses the element of judgment which is clear in the context. God comes in judgment, as in "The Day of the Lord," a phrase quite familiar to students of the Scripture as a time of judgment, when God's voice is thunderous and men hide themselves: precisely what we see in the text.

[5] See below on the Feast of Tabernacles.