By Hermes C. Fernandes
It was a rainy Sunday in November 2013, when at 7 am the central section of the Elevado da Perimetral near the city center of Rio de Janeiro was imploded. It took more than a ton of explosives to turn the road into rubble and dust, a lot of dust. A structure that took years to complete was down in just five seconds. However, it took several to remove the rubble.
While watching the circus mounted around the implosion on TV, the passage occurred to me in which Jesus tells the disciples that they were stunned by the sumptuousness of the temple in Jerusalem: “Don’t you see all this? Truly, I say to you, there will be no stone left unturned here that is not broken down ” (Mt.24: 1-2)
That temple was the heart of the Jewish faith, and what was left of the pride of a nation dominated by foreign legions. It was, so to speak, proof that Israel had already lived glorious times, and the hope that one day it would live again. Centuries earlier, the temple had been overthrown by the Babylonians but rebuilt after a seventy-year exile.
Shortly before Jesus’ sentence, the temple had undergone its last renovation. It was Herod, the false king, who, in his eagerness to win the admiration of the Jews, decided to make it even more sumptuous than in the days of Solomon, its builder.
Days earlier, Jesus brought a shock of order when he entered the temple and found the money changers and merchants who transformed it into a huge open market. Armed with a whip, the Galilean master threw them out, knocking over their tables, releasing the animals intended for sacrifice, and denouncing their greed. “My house will be called a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves!”, shouted.
Once the order was restored, everything indicated that the temple would still stand for many centuries. However, Jesus surprises His disciples by assuring them that there will be no stone left unturned. That structure is known as the “house of God” had become obsolete. Its expiration date was about to expire. In its place, God would build a temple made of living stones, destined to last forever (1 Pet. 2: 5). In this temple made of people, the prophecy that “the glory of the last house will be greater than the first” would be fulfilled (Haggai 2: 9).
As with any demolition, the first step is to advance notice. Jesus had already done, as we have seen. The second step is interdiction. This took place at the exact moment when Jesus consummated His work on the cross.
We read that, from the top of Golgotha, when rendering His spirit to God, “the veil of the temple was rent in two, from top to bottom” (Mt.27: 50).
The veil, which was about 10 centimeters thick, was a kind of heavy curtain that separated the most consecrated of the temple precincts, the Holy of Holies, where the Ark of the Covenant stood, the symbol of the presence of God among His people. Only the high priest, once a year, could enter it. And for that, he had to carry the blood of the sacrifice of a pure, perfect and spotless lamb. It was as if the glory of God was confined to that room, being accessible only through sacrifice. This was the way for man to approach God.
However, the One who presents Himself as “the way, the truth, and the life”, inaugurated a new way for us to access God, no longer through animal sacrifices, but only through His own sacrifice.
When offered to the Father in sacrifice, the veil of the temple is torn from top to bottom, indicating that this new way was an initiative of God himself and not of man. Thereafter, any and all sacrifices that were offered to God would no longer be recognized. That old path indicated by the Mosaic Law was banned forever. For this reason, the sacred writer challenges us to use “boldness to enter the Holy of Holies, through the blood of Jesus, through the new and living way that he inaugurated us, through the veil, that is, through his flesh” ( Hb.10: 19-20).
As much as religion seeks to sew that thick veil of separation, God will never receive man again through that old way. That alliance was so old that it expired.
I have heard from some that in the last day’s God would build that temple and the sacrifices would be reissued. Nothing further from the truth than that. For God to accept such sacrifices again, the sacrifice of His Son Jesus would have to expire. Even if anyone dares to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem, God will not dwell there. And if you offer sacrifices, God will not receive them.
The next stage of demolition is detonation.
The temple in Jerusalem was not the problem itself. But it was the greatest symbol of a mindset that needed to be transformed. Only the preaching of the gospel, the good news of the kingdom, could overturn the religious paradigms that held those people hostage.
According to Paul, the gospel is the power of God (Rom.1: 16). The Greek word translated “power” is dynamic , from where the word “dynamite” originates. When the truth is exposed, deception comes to the ground. We don’t need to resort to any other device. The truth of the gospel is enough for us, without outspokenness or pretense. No crazy strategies. No sterile rhetoric. Only the announcement of the work completed on the cross.
Trying to subvert a mentality rooted for centuries through human strategies such as neuro-linguistic reprogramming or something like that is like trying to break down the perimeter with pops of June festivities. It took 1,200 kilos of explosives to knock down the perimeter.
The weapons to which we must resort are not carnal, “ but powerful in God, for the demolition of fortresses. Breaking down reasoning and all haughtiness that rises up against the knowledge of God, and taking every thought captive to obedience to Christ ” (2 Co. 10: 4-5).
Our worldview, built on assumptions, beliefs, and paradigms, needs to be imploded to make room for the worldview of the kingdom of God. In the words of the sacred writer, one should promote “the removal of the shaky things (…) so that the unshakable things remain” (Heb.12: 27). It cannot be left unturned! All of our thoughts are to be taken captive to Christ’s obedience. Our assumptions must pass the scrutiny of the Word. Once conscience of the unshakable kingdom is installed, “let us retain grace, by which we serve God pleasantly, with reverence and awe ” (Heb. 12:28).
It is like uninstalling an operating system from your computer to install another one in its place. Even the screen icons are different. Programs that ran in the previous one, no longer run in the current one. Everything needs to be updated. However, if your computer is not compatible with the new operating system, there is no point in trying to install it. Do not waste your time. Change the machine.
The temple in Jerusalem could not contain the glory of the new covenant. It would be like pouring new wine into old bottles.
The penultimate stage of demolition is implosion.
BOOM! In seconds, everything goes to the ground. A cloud of dust rises. The old structure is gone.
It was not enough for the temple veil to be torn from top to bottom. The writer of Hebrews says that while that time was standing, the path of the Most Holy would not be fully discovered (Heb.9: 8). Even with the veil torn, the priests continued their sacrifices. The old path, although closed, continued to be trodden. The problem would only be solved when there was no stone left unturned.
It was in AD 70 that the Roman legions, under Titus’ command, invaded Jerusalem and completely destroyed their superb temple. This occurred about forty years after Christ’s predictions that that generation would not pass without everything being fulfilled.
With the collapse of the temple, the umbilical cord that kept the Christian church linked to Judaism in the first century was finally cut. Now the gospel was free to go its way without rancid Judaizing.
The last step in the demolition process is the removal of rubble. I have the impression that we are still going through this phase.
The perimeter fell in five seconds. But the estimate is that it will take two months to remove the rubble.
Almost two thousand years have passed and we are still working to remove the rancidity of an infantilized spiritual mentality. Christians still resort to elements of Jewish worship, such as chests, shofar, festivals, holy days, dietary restrictions, vows, sacrifices, etc. Did they never read Galatians or Colossians? Why go back to outdated rudiments of the Law? Why keep people in ignorance? Is there any interest in that? I think so. The more childish and dependent on such things the church is, the easier it is to be dominated by unscrupulous leaders, whose interests are placed above the agenda of the kingdom of God.
Paul’s warnings fit the current generation of Judaizing Christians:
“But now, knowing God, or rather being known to God, how do you return to those weak and poor rudiments, which you again want to serve? “ Galatians 4: 9
“Therefore, let no one judge you by eating, or drinking, or because of the feast days, or the new moon, or the Saturdays, which are shadows of future things, but the body is Christ’s. Let no one dominate you as you please with the pretext of humility and the worship of angels, involving yourself in things you have not seen; being in vain, swollen in his carnal understanding, and not connected to the head, of which the whole body, provided and organized by joints and bandages, is growing in an increase of God. If, therefore, you are dead with Christ as to the rudiments of the world, why are you still burdened with ordinances, as if you lived in the world, such as: Don’t touch, don’t try, don’t handle? Which all things perish by use, according to the precepts and doctrines of men. ” Colossians 2: 16-22
May the Lord give us willingness and patience to remove all this rubble that still insists on placing itself as an obstacle in the face of the new and living way that He inaugurated for us by His sacrifice on the cross. And if someone insists on living under the veil of ignorance after having known the truth, the tip remains: “ Christ will not profit you” (Gal.5: 2).