Life & Failure


In Image & Redemption

Gensis 3: 16 The third objective promises everlasting righteousness. Daniel’s prayer of confession, which was prompted by his reading of Jeremiah, acknowledges in Daniel 9:7 that God is righteous (צדְָקהָ) and that his people, in effect, are unrighteous (Dn 9:18). In fact, they are covered with shame because of their wilful violations of God’s commands. Those commands are part of God’s covenant that He made with Israel through Moses (Dn 9:4-15). This covenant may have provided the standard of righteous conduct for a people already redeemed by putting their faith in the blood of the Passover lamb; nevertheless, it did not have the power of regeneration within it (Baker 2010:74; Ridderbos 1975:153; Williams 2005:151; Wright 2004:27-29, 52-54, 64-65). The blood of animals can neither atone for sin nor change the heart (Heb 10:1-4). Instead, the blood of the Passover lamb typologically anticipated the blood of the Lamb of God that efficaciously takes away the sin of the world (Jn 1:29; 1 Cor 5:7). The power to transform the heart belongs exclusively to Jeremiah’s new covenant in Jesus’ blood (Lk 22:20; Jn 1:17), and Old Testament saints experienced that power proleptically by believing God’s promise regarding the blood of animal sacrifices.

Calvin (1981), as seen in his comments on Jeremiah 31:33, recognised this truth. He said:

the Fathers [Old Testament saints], who were formerly regenerated, obtained this favor through Christ, so that we may say, that it was as it were transferred to them from another source. The power, then, to penetrate into the heart was not inherent in the law, but it was a benefit transferred to the law from the Gospel. (p. 131)

God’s grace comes ultimately through Jesus the anointed one. Only the Spirit of Jesus can apply the benefits of Jesus’ active and passive obedience to believers and thereby regenerate and transform their hearts. From a historical point of view, Old Testament saints experienced this work of Jesus’ Spirit proleptically, and New Testament saints receive it retrospectively.

Transforming grace is the basis for everlasting righteousness. Because Jesus kept the law of God without infraction, He is the righteous one who can satisfy the justice of God by paying sin’s penalty. The resurrection proves God’s acceptance of Jesus’ work. Not only does the resurrection vindicate Jesus as the Righteous One (Ac 2:24, 33; Rm 1:4; 1 Tm 3:16) but it also makes him able to share his righteousness with those who believe in him (Beale 2011:253-254, 262-263, 473-477, 493-498, 575-588; Gaffin 1987:89-92, 114-117, 120-129;

Vos 1980:107, 109-114; Vos 1986:151). The Spirit of Jesus graciously applies the righteousness of Jesus to believers so that they become positionally and progressively conformed to his likeness through justification, sanctification, and glorification. As they reflect his righteousness in character and conduct, righteousness spreads throughout their areas of influence. Stated differently, the kingdom of God advances on earth as God’s people exhibit the righteousness of Jesus that the Spirit of Jesus imputes to and grows in them.

The Mosaic covenant had to do with the sanctification and mission of an already redeemed people. It told them how to live righteously in response to God’s preliminary and anticipatory provision of redemption in the Exodus. As seen, for example in Paul’s association of the law with love (Rm 13:8-10), the Mosaic instruction continues to have the same role in the lives of New Testament saints. It defines how a royal priesthood carries out its mission to model a redeemed and righteous alternative to the disobedience of God’s revealed will that characterises this present evil age. The observance of dietary, sacrificial, and other laws may require adjustment because of the movement of redemptive history, but the abiding truths behind these laws remain in effect.

Jesus who kept the law in order to perform Israel’s priestly mission, enables his people to keep it for a similarly priestly (i.e., evangelistic) purpose (cf. 1 Pt 2:9-3:17).5

If Daniel’s reading of Jeremiah’s recalls the new covenant that makes righteousness possible through the internalisation of God’s law, Jeremiah also expected a future king named Yahweh Is Our Righteousness (Jr 23:5-6; 33:15-16). This descendant of David would act righteously and establish righteousness. No such king appeared after Jeremiah’s ministry until Jesus, and certainly Jehoiakim, the only Davidic descendant mentioned in Daniel, failed to exemplify righteousness (cf. Jr 22:13-19). By identifying Jesus the anointed one as the son of David, the first verse of the New Testament signals that King Yahweh Is Our Righteousness has arrived. Through him, God fully answered Daniel’s prayer by turning away his anger in accordance with his righteousness (Dn 9:16). Jesus the righteous king saved his people from divine judgement by living sinlessly, paying sin’s penalty, and breaking sin’s power. He defeated their enemies – internal and external, earthly and spiritual, human and demonic, seen and unseen. Jesus also claimed to be Daniel’s Son of man who is said to receive dominion, majesty, and a kingdom (Dn 7:13-14). As such, Jesus inherited and realised the royal commission given to Adam, the first human (Gn 1:28), and later to the Davidic kings (Ps 72). He rules righteously over the creation for God’s glory, the benefit of God’s people, and the good of God’s other creatures.

One other point should be made in connection with the fourth objective. Daniel 2:37 says that the God of heaven gives dominion to Nebuchadnezzar, but not forever. Three other kingdoms follow his. Moreover, verse 38 limits Nebuchadnezzar’s rule to humans, beasts, and birds -creatures that dwell on earth. Verse 39 even explicitly says that the third kingdom will rule over all the earth. None of the four kingdoms, however, rules over heaven. So then, Daniel 2 contrasts the human kingdoms of earth and God’s kingdom of heaven (Pennington 2009:272). That focus is especially seen in Matthew’s preference for the phrase kingdom of heaven instead of kingdom of God.6Mark 1:15 reports that Jesus began his ministry during the Roman Empire by proclaiming, ‘The time has come; the kingdom of God is at hand’. Curiously, Matthew 4:17 (a parallel verse) and other verses in Matthew refer to the kingdom of God as the kingdom of heaven. According to Pennington (2009:289-290, 320-321), the writer of Matthew did not use a ‘reverential circumlocution’ to avoid direct reference to God (as was done in the literature of the Second Temple Judaism) but, instead, applied to Jesus the contrast in Daniel 2 between the human kingdoms of earth and the divine kingdom of heaven. This contrast involves not only ontology (Jesus in contrast to the kings in Daniel 2 is more than human) but also ethics (Jesus’ reign is characterised by righteousness). Pennington (2009:209) says, ‘He [Matthew] is crafting a sharp distinction between two realms: one represented by the earthly world and its unrighteous inhabitants and the other by God’, who, of course, embodies righteousness and sends his eternal Son in human dress. The Son in his deity shares the attribute of righteousness and then reflects it as the image of God in his humanity. Each person, then, must make a decision about serving one of two possible masters (Mt 6:24), and the outcomes in terms of conduct and consequences could not be starker.

At this point, it is hard not to think that Matthew’s contrast between heaven and earth constitutes his way of distinguishing between the two ages that characterise New Testament eschatology as a whole (e.g. Gl 1:4).7 Although Pennington (2009:334) prefers to speak of two realms – an earthly realm (characterised by disobedience to God’s commands) and a heavenly realm (characterised by willing submission to King Jesus) that remain in tension until the eschaton – he recognises that Matthew is aware of moral duality (good versus evil) and eschatological duality (this age and the age to come). Whereas human kingdoms represent this present evil age that lives without reference to God and so suffers the deleterious consequences of unrighteous thought and conduct, the kingdom of heaven has to do with the age to come that irrupts into this present evil age through the person and work of God’s incarnate Son. These two incompatible ages run concurrently between the first and second comings of Jesus until God’s kingdom and king overthrow the evil regimes of human history and cause righteousness to prevail in human hearts and upon the earth -the fourth objective of Daniel 9:24. http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S2305-08532015000100054#:~:text=He%20puts%20an%20end%20to,his%20people%20to%20his%20likeness.