Known in the Gates

Her husband is known in the gates,
When he sits among the elders of the land.
Proverbs 31:23

“A Christian is a living, walking, talking testimony to the end of the world—to a cosmic, judicial maturity, the ‘adulthood’ of mankind.”

Doug Wilson is right to emphasize the “eschatological reality” of the final judgment, but surely the requirements and mode of baptism should communicate that reality?

If the process of “salvation through Covenant” is pretty much the same under the New as it was under the Old, as he believes, why did circumcision become baptism? Why the change in the Covenant “road sign” if there’s no real change concerning what’s down the road?

Circumcision and baptism not only meant very different things, they also led to very different things. Yes, they are both signs, but they differed in their means (the roads) and in their ends (their destinations).

The first circumcision led to a miraculous son, who was faithfully placed on the Altar. Circumcision was all about the firstborn, the firstfruits, the “Covenant head.” The Abrahamic Covenant was a genealogical road, with a genealogical end: the Offspring of the Woman. Faith was an important element, but Satan’s target was the Messianic lineage. The end of circumcision was Christ, and Christ brought the end of the Circumcision. The Romans circumcised Jerusalem with a trench and crucified the Jews who tried to escape. Note that many Jews trapped in the city were the hardliners who had traveled from all over the empire to participate in great Passovers to celebrate the completion of Herod’s Temple. It was a spiteful celebration of circumcision, so Jesus cut off the cutting off. [1]

What is the baptism road? What is it a sign of? Most Christians are aware of the texts used to defend credobaptism. But the Bible has a lot more to say about it typologically, and we need to use our imaginations.

I know the “Bible Matrix” isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but it gives us a process I call “cross-eyed exegesis.” [2] When we line up many of the Bible’s narratives and visions and architectures, we can suddenly see many different facets as parts of the same diamond. This is because they all appear at the same step in the process of redemption. This is especially beautiful when it comes to baptism. It allows us to line up the springs of Eden, the Jordan, the Laver, the crystal sea, the Israelite robe [3] and the Day of Coverings. We can move beyond the obvious proof texts and identify the Old Covenant types of New Covenant baptism, rather than misreading circumcision as an “Old Covenant baptism.” [4]

During the Old Covenant, the heavenly government ruled over a crystal sea. When God “bowed the heavens” down to earth, the elders of Israel saw Yahweh walking on it. It was flat, “beaten out.” [5] John saw the heavens bowed once again. This time Yahweh was not alone on the sea, and the sea was no longer a sea. It was gone, or rather, it had been reshaped.

Just as God made the Red Sea to part and make a way through for Israel, and just as He made the overflowing Jordan to stand up as a wall, so the heavenly sea now stood up as crystal walls and gates. The round sea had become square. Nature had become culture.

Gates were a place of judgment. Elders sat there and delivered their verdicts. If exile from a city was required, the gate was the best place to execute that sentence. Revelation shows us that the Old Covenant saints and New Covenant martyrs now sit enthroned with Christ. With Him, they administer the New Covenant. [6] The gates of the New Jerusalem are apostolic. The apostles’ doctrine is our rule of faith, and when we believe and obey their legal testimonies, we share in the fellowship they enjoy with the Father and the Son.

The whole point of the Covenant signs was to make their respective eschatological realities real, not just to those inside the boundary, but to those on the outside. Circumcision had a very different eschatology (end) to that of baptism. Circumcision led to death on the Land. Baptism leads to life on the Sea. Circumcision led to fiery Adamic Sinai. Baptism leads to a Zion with four rivers (I guess this would be Evian?).

A credobaptism testifies to the truth of regeneration to those inside the Church, and it generally strokes the fur on those outside the Church the wrong way. It brings the division of the sheep and goats forward in time and makes it visible. To misapply it to a genealogical gathering is to misrepresent both what is now and what is down the road, that is, the current reality of the open gates of the New City and the Day they will close.

How does the Bible define those gates?

“Its gates shall not be shut at all by day (there shall be no night there). And they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it. But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.”

This means that our baptisms must represent as closely as possible the final day. The pure may enter. The defiled may not. The difference between sheep and goats is that sheep follow. Baptism itself is the gates of the city, flowing across the world until all that was round is square, until all that was raw is refined, until all that was unholy is holy. Paedobaptism baptizes nature before it is transformed. Judgment is miscarried at its gates.

If we are enthroned with Christ, we, like the resurrected firstfruits (the first resurrection) must be elders in the gates of the “city of elders,” that is, the greeters and bouncers of a city of “eschatological people,” Omega men and Omega women who have met their end. A Christian is a living, walking, talking testimony to the end of the world—to a cosmic, judicial maturity, the “adulthood” of mankind. [7] Circumcision put Israel under angelic guardians. Baptism makes believers into angelic guardians. [8]

This process of “judicial adulthood” in baptism puts the feet of every believer on the springs of the new Eden. And the only feet allowed upon those springs are feet that have heard the invitation of Christ, our Joshua, and consciously, willingly joined His foot upon the neck of the serpent.

Baptism is not about the Head. It is all about the Covenant Body. [9] It is the Trumpets of witness, the Incense Elders, and their enthronement over the waters. Infant baptism doesn’t communicate to the world what a Christian actually is: credobaptism says to the unbelieving world “I am a witness to you in my death and a judge over you in my resurrection.” If we are doing the right thing in, or rather, as, the gates of the city, there will be only Christians in deed.

[1] See Sin City – 1.
[2] See Cross-eyed Exegesis.
[3] See Healing in His… Tassels?
[4] See Walking on Water for the significance of the water motif at Conquest.
[5] See Bowing the Heavens and Firmament of Flesh.
[6] See Jesus’ New Broom and Communion of Saints.
[7] See Judicial Maturity.
[8] See Better Angels.
[9] John’s baptism was limited to Jews (Head), but through death and resurrection, Jesus transformed it into a baptism that united Jews and Gentiles as Christians (Body). Even baptism itself had to be slain and resurrected for all nations.

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3 Responses to “Known in the Gates”

  • Chris W Says:

    But if baptism is ascension into heaven to rule and passing through the crystal sea, then surely the water should come from above? The baptisms of the Old Covenant all involved passing from an old world into a new one (this seems to be the main link between them) but our “passing through” is no longer into Canaan, but into heaven.

    Also, do you think that there is a link between John’s baptism and the Red Sea baptism and Jesus’s baptism and the Jordan one? John comes as Moses leading people to repentance and out into the wilderness, whereas Jesus comes as Joshua and leads people to a lasting faith and into the heavenly kingdom.

  • Mike Bull Says:

    Hi Chris

    I think the Bible gives us as watertight case for immersion as can reasonably be expected, yet we are intent on finding holes in it! The arguments seem to be mostly arguments from silence.

    There, just had to get that out of my system.

    James Jordan uses the water from the “Laver” (which is liturgically, architecturally and perhaps physically [on a stand], “above”) to argue that sprinkling on the head is an acceptable mode of baptism. I’ve seen Doug Wilson sprinkle water on an adult. Besides the facts that these bear no resemblance to any New Testament baptism, and the Bible consistently corresponds baptism to the Body, we do have two “seas.” So how do I deal with that?

    Jordan observes that Egypt was watered from below and Canaan was watered from above (rain). So there is that progression, for sure. But the structure of things seems to show that the Red Sea was supposed to be “it,” and Israel’s failure in the wilderness necessitated another corporate baptism in the Jordan. If you check the relevant chart in Bible Matrix I, it shows how that delay messed up the pattern. So, yes, I think you are correct on those two baptisms (Moses and Joshua – I had this in Totus Christus), but it’s a fractal, so the longer the history goes, there is always a greater “entering in.”

    I say this because we have the same delay in the New Testament. We have John’s and Jesus’ baptisms as an in-and-out death-and-resurrection, but then we also have that “pair” of water baptisms and the greater baptism of the physical resurrection for the Old Covenant saints and New Covenant martyrs. They entered into the heavenly country with Abel and Abraham.

    They do all involve passing into a new world, but because of the fractal nature of it, the previous Conquest/Vindication is likely to become the Division/Delegation of a greater pattern. This appears to be evidence for paedobaptism for those who are looking (rather desperately) for it, but all it means is that every new call involves the cutting off of the old ties.

    Hope that’s not too confusing.

  • Chris W Says:

    Well, I can agree that a lot more water was probably used in the New Covenant baptisms than most PB’s use nowadays. It’s not a matter of being intent on finding a case against immersion though, it’s just that a lot of people aren’t convinced that it’s the biblical mode (although there is some disagreement on this within the PB camp – NT Wright for example). You seem to be agreed that baptism corresponds to the laver, so water coming from above surely makes a whole lot more sense? How else is baptism to be linked with the laver?

    But I see your point with the ‘body’. Perhaps there’s a link with Leviticus 1. Imagine if we got the person to be almost immersed in water with their head and shoulders poking out of the water and then poured AND sprinkled water on them. Would that fit all of the typologies? ;)