The Corpus Christi Coupled Mystery

The Corpus Christi Coupled Mystery

The Mystery of God could be called the Corpus Christi Coupled Mystery. No, I do not mean a mysterious married couple from a city in Texas.

The Mystery of God goes without elaboration or explanation when first mentioned in Revelation 10:7. It is just suddenly dropped into the Apocalypse’s eccentric mix. Because that is so — because it is not elaborated upon or explained, the Mystery of God can be missed by readers. Joe Reader might not consider what the Mystery is. Joanna Reader might not even notice it there. Nevertheless, the Mystery of God carries a lot more narrative importance than Joe or Joanna Reader may recognize. Since the Mystery of God immediately follows an awe inspiring celestial appearance and a solemn vow made by the Mighty Angel (who is actually Christ Jesus incognito), it must matter. Indeed, the Mystery matters a great deal. The mentioning of the Mystery even serves as a rudder for the ensuing narrative. It steers the remaining course of the Book of Revelation. Everything to follow 10:7 concerns the Corpus Christi Coupled Mystery. That is not an overstatement.

Although I discussed the Mystery of God in my last blog-cast, a refresher may be necessary and helpful here. Just what is the Mystery of God? For the sake of simplicity, readers can equate the Mystery of God with the Church of Christ, which is sometimes metaphorically called the Body of Christ. The Mystery of God could be called the Corpus Christi, since Corpus Christi is the Latin translation of the Body of Christ. Since the Latin phrase helpfully rhymes, I suggest readers remember it as the Corpus Christi Mystery. But one more elaborative word should be inserted into that that title. The word to add is coupled, resulting in the Corpus Christi Coupled Mystery.

The Mystery of God, the Church, can thus be likened to a body. This is an anatomical analogy. Like a body, the Church is an extension of and living instrument of its Head, who is Christ. Corporately, believers form a living entity that cooperatively accomplishes Christ’s purposes. Believers do so by daily drawing upon the power of the Holy Spirit. Cooperative Christians function on Earth as the Corpus Christi, the instrumental anatomy of Christ.

In my last blog-cast I used another analogy. I equated the Mystery of God with adoption. That analogy has not been abandoned. It still holds true. Adoption is a great way to think about the Mystery of God, about the Church, the Christian community. Adoption brings a blended family immediately to mind. A blended family could also be called a coupled family. And that is how the Church is supposed to behave — like a caring, nurturing blended (or coupled) family.

The adoptive coupling is the big surprise. It is a marvel and a mystery that God invited Gentiles into the household. Even Gentiles are invited. Gentiles! This was shocking and scandalous to Jesus’ first followers. Gentiles were hitherto anathema. Gentiles were polluted. Gentiles were infectious. Was it possible that God would open the family of faith to Gentiles?

It was possible. And today God continues to invite distant strangers and even once hostile enemies to come join the household of God. That even includes foolish, stubborn sinners like you and me. God has invited us turn away from our sin and from ourselves. God has invited us to take a new path and follow Christ. And God has invited us to become part of a larger, longstanding family of faith. Surprisingly, complete strangers and awkward aliens like us are included in the invitation. We too are welcome to join the family, if we will only accept the invitation to submit to the leadership of Christ.

Once we are adopted into the family, we are incorporated into the anatomy. Notice the metaphorical mix and the symbolic switch, then. Anatomy and adoption are my two operative metaphors. To talk about the Church, we may and sometimes should switch up the descriptive symbolism. We do this since various metaphors are variously apt. Also notice that both the adoption metaphor and the anatomy metaphor are taken straight from scripture (see Ephesians 1:5; 1 Corinthians 12:27).

In subsequent episodes, beginning in Chapter Eleven, Revelation is going to switch the symbolism some more. Revelation will use several additional metaphors or symbols for the Church, for the Corpus Christi Coupled Mystery. Borrowing from the end of the Prophecy of Ezekiel, the Church will be depicted as a temple. Borrowing from the middle of the Prophecy of Zechariah, the Church will be depicted as two olive trees and two lamp-stands. But the primary, overarching symbolic image for the Church will be that of two fire-breathing martyrs — two testifying, miracle-working, persecuted, slain, but eventually resurrected and raptured martyrs. Be ready. We will see a mash-up of metaphors for the Church.

In summary, as we follow the narrative of Revelation our focus now and from hence is the Church of Christ, which is a blended family of native Jewish believers and adoptive Gentile believers, believers who have been coupled together by one Spirit to form a body — the Corpus Christi Coupling, the Mystery of God.

Temple Visitors

Saturday, May 30th, 2020

The Dome of the Rock and the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem
Temple Visitors – Audio Version

Temple. This blog post considers the theme of temple and how it relates to the Book of Revelation.

In a previous post, I explained how I was once an angel in Los Angeles. In the original Greek, from which English eventually inherited the word, angelos really just means messenger. A messenger can be a glorious heavenly being or an unimpressive, ordinary earthling. For a while, I worked for a successful county-line law firm as a courier, driving around the greater LA area. As a courier, I had navigate my way through traffic to various court houses and hand-deliver important legal documents and time-sensitive messages. Thus, in my mind, I officially qualify. I can claim that I was briefly an angelos in Los Angeles. 

A few years after I drove and delivered messages for the law firm, someone from my school asked if I would be willing to drive a van for them. A delegation of English-speaking scholars from across the Muslim world was about to come to Los Angeles. Was I available and would I be willing to drive them around? Yes, I was available. And yes, I would drive them around LA.

The year was 2002. September 11th was a very recent and raw memory. The United States State Department, in cooperation with some institutions of higher learning, had arranged for a delegation of English-speaking Muslim scholars to tour the United States. I believe that the US State Department and the American schools hoped that the scholars would return to their respective countries and speak positively about what they had seen and experienced in the USA. The tour was an attempt at academic and religious diplomacy. Good PR was surely the goal. I’m not sure if that’s what happened, though. Still, it was eye-opening to be their driver.  

One of the destinations to which I drove the scholars was Wilshire Boulevard Temple. As the name indicates, Wilshire Boulevard Temple is located on Wilshire Boulevard, a road that runs right through downtown Los Angeles. You may have heard of it before. The Temple, which I will abbreviate from hence as WBT, is an impressive historic building that belongs to a Jewish congregation. From an artistic standpoint, WBT visually wows a visitor. It has a big central rotunda, much like most state capitol buildings. If you stand underneath the rotunda and look upward, as I did, golden gilded Hebrew letters and words go around the inside of it. To my surprise and delight, I could read it. I knew exactly what it said. It was the Shema. 

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.” That would be Deuteronomy 6:4; and that is the Shema.

For me, it was an electrifying moment. Not long before that, I had taken Hebrew. I stood there, looking upward, and actually read what it said, with ease. And I was struck by the weight and the serendipity of that moment. Representatives of the three religions that lay claim to the monotheism proclaimed in that verse were all gathered there. However, we were hardly in harmony. For one thing, we disagreed about the identity of the Temple (of God).

Temple Mount in temporal Jerusalem

The Jewish temple that once stood in Jerusalem — will it be rebuilt someday? For centuries now, the temple’s former location has been a Muslim sacred site. The Dome of the Rock was constructed where the temple once stood. It is there to this day. The site is under the jurisdiction of Muslim authorities. They are determined to hold it. If the Israelis attempt to take control of the location, a regional war will probably immediately ensue. 

With all that in consideration, hear what one of the Muslim scholars asked the head rabbi at WBT. While we all stood around in the office of the rabbi, a visiting Muslim scholar asked him, “Do you want the temple to be rebuilt in Jerusalem?” It was a loaded question. The rabbi’s answer surprised me. It probably surprised the Muslim scholars, too.

The rabbi said, “No, I don’t, because if the temple were rebuilt we would need to resume the whole sacrificial system. I don’t want that to happen.”

Alternatively, there are other Jewish religious authorities who do want the temple in Jerusalem rebuilt. That was not discussed with the visiting Muslim scholars at WBT that day, though.

A lot of Christians have been taught and believe that the Jewish temple in Jerusalem must be rebuilt before Jesus returns. The Book of Revelation briefly mentions “the temple of God” in the first two verses of Chapter Eleven. Interpreters have to decide which temple is referenced. Is it a rebuilt Jewish temple in Jerusalem, or something else? That is a super-important question. If it is understood to be a rebuilt Jewish temple in Jerusalem, then we ought to intently watch what happens at that contested location in Jerusalem. However, if it is not a rebuilt temple in Jerusalem, then fixating on events in Jerusalem is unnecessary. Again, interpretively, a lot hangs the identity of the temple in Revelation 11:1-2.

The temple mentioned in Revelation 11:1-2 is actually the Church, not a rebuilt temple in Jerusalem. That is how I read it. We are mistaken to expect a rebuilt temple in Jerusalem, which might never happen, anyway. Here, the Rabbi at WBT, along with the Muslim scholars, may have their collective way. There may never be a rebuilt temple in Jerusalem, at least, not prior to the parousia of Jesus, that is, prior to the Second Coming.  

The New Testament repeatedly says that the Church is now the temple of God. We ought to believe it. The Church really is the temple of God now. God’s presence is no longer to be found in a brick-and-mortar building or a stone-and-mortar temple, but in a living temple, in and among the corporate people of God. Ephesians 2:19-22 says as much, and is worth a quick read.

All of this said, the land and the people of Israel are not irrelevant. On the contrary, the nation of Israel is still relevant to Revelation and will be important in The End. After all these centuries of time, God continues to be faithful to the Jewish people for the sake of their ancestors; and they still do have a role to play in the fulfillment of prophecy. Explaining that will have to wait for another day and another blog post, though.