The Cosmic Lawsuit


I said, “You are gods, and all of you are children of the Most High. But you shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes.” Psalm 82:6

As discussed elsewhere here, the five-point Covenant model as it gets played out in history becomes seven-point. The central “Ethics” gets split into three: Law-Testing-Law.

Moses, the Covenant head, ascends and receives the Law. He opens it for Israel as Mediator. Israel, as body, is tested under the Law. The Law is given again to a “resurrected” Israel, the next generation.

In microcosm, we see this in the incident with the golden calf. Moses is given the Tablets, Israel is tested, and the Tablets are broken. Moses brings the Law a second time.

In macrocosm, the Law is given from Sinai, Israel is tested for forty years, and Moses brings the Law again in Deuteronomy to a “resurrected” Israel, the next generation.

At the centre of the heptamerous pattern are the “governing lights,” pictured in the Creation week by the sun, moon and five visible planets. Law-Lights-Law. Will the members of the body be gods (Psalm 82:6; ), or will they turn to false gods. Will they become rulers by obedience to the Law, or will they disobey and be ruled by those who should have been in subjection to them? Will they be aflame with the true light, or like Adam, be duped and ruled by the beast. This perhaps shows the depth of Jesus’ strange words in John 10:

“…the Jews took up stones again to stone Him. Jesus answered them, “Many good works I have shown you from My Father. For which of those works do you stone Me?” The Jews answered Him, saying, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, and because You, being a Man, make Yourself God.” Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, “You are gods” ‘? (John 10:31-34)

The New Testament, being a Covenant, follows the Old Covenant pattern. Jesus ascends and opens the New Covenant. Most of Israel turns to the superseded priesthood to build them an image of a beast, the Herodian Temple. How is the Law given again, ie. deuteronomically?

The gospel went to the Jew first, then to the Greek/Gentile. But, as Peter Leithart observes, at least in the order of the New Testament canon as we have it, there is an obvious shift back to the Jew. [1] The final letters are full of warnings. The apostolic witness is serving papers upon the Jews once again, but this time it is the next generation. The book of Hebrews, perhaps, is the Final Notice. The old and decaying worship structure had two witnesses against it now—Jew and Gentile. [2]

The apostolic lights—the men who became “gods,” judging rightly between good and evil, were the Pentecostals. Just like the 49-fold Lampstand in Zechariah’s vision, they were witnesses to the resurrection of all Israel as a holy priesthood. Leithart observes the connection between the Spirit and the Law in His ministry of conviction:

The name given for the Spirit in John 16, paracletos, is a legal term.  A paraclete is a defense attorney, a public defender.  The word “convict” also has legal connotations.  It sometimes focuses on the subjective shame felt by the person convicted, but it doesn’t always include that. James says that those who show partiality to the rich are convicted as transgressors of the law (2:9), and whether or not they feel convicted, they are in fact guilty. Paul writes to Titus about the “conviction” of false teachers, and he’s mainly talking about exposing their false teaching (Titus 1:9, 13). Jesus’ instructs the disciples, “If your brother sins, go and convict him in private.” This obviously doesn’t mean that the person repents, because Jesus goes on to tell disciples what to do if the person who’s been “convicted” doesn’t listen. According to Jesus, a brother can be “convicted” even when he’s not “convicted” in our usual sense of the term.

In sum, Jesus is talking not about feelings of remorse but about legal processes. Like the prophets, Jesus thinks of the world’s battles as legal conflicts. In this sense, the conquest of the land was also a legal battle: Who has rightful claim to the land – Israel or  Canaan? Yahweh or the gods of the Canaanites? When Yahweh gave Joshua victory in battle, He was handing him a legal decision as well. Victory was vindication, proof that Yahweh and Joshua were in the right.

After Jesus leaves the scene, He warns, there will be a courtroom battle royale. The great legal conflict that is human history will reach its climax as the church crosses over the Jordan to take the land. At Pentecost, the Spirit arrives as the Paraclete to take the disciples’ side in the cosmic lawsuit that follows Jesus’ ascension. [3]

The Gospel we share is offensive because it is a foretaste of the New Covenant sanctions: life or death. [4] When we share the Gospel, we are serving papers. That is not a claim on merely individual souls, or of the possession of some future world. It is a clear statement that every man alive is living on Jesus’ turf, under Jesus’ fiery eyes, and subject to His government.

[1] See Peter J. Leithart, Jew Gentile Jew.
[2] See The Two Witnesses.
[3] Peter J. Leithart, Conviction by the Spirit.
[4] See Fragrance of Christ.

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