Darkness Under His Feet


The abandonment of the Son by the Father is made palpable not in the crucifixion of His body, since He willingly laid down His life, but in the darkness which covered the Land for three hours. But perhaps this darkness was a sign of the Father’s nearness rather than His distance.

Matthew, Mark and Luke document the darkness which covered the Land during the last three hours of Jesus’ life, and so do three extra biblical historians, Thallus, Phlegon and Africanus. But what was its purpose? It is wise to look for typological precedents for events in the Gospels, since Jesus fulfilled the Law and the Prophets. Concerning darkness we have the primeval world before the creation of light (Genesis 1:2), and the darkness which covered Egypt as the ninth plague (Exodus 10:21-23).

The details of this plague are interesting, since this was “a darkness to be felt” and “nor did anyone rise from his place for three days.” Only the land of Goshen where the Israelites dwelt was given light. Thus, the three hours of darkness at noonday were a sign of the coming three days in which Christ would be covered by the darkness of the tomb. But there is another instance of darkness and light as a judgment in Exodus, and that occurred at the Red Sea crossing (Exodus 13:19-20). The pillar of cloud gave light to the Israelites but the Egyptians were left in the dark. Thus the two were kept separate throughout the night.

My assertion here is that the darkness in each case was a visit from the glory cloud, the “mobile tabernacle” which served as God’s chariot until the Day of Pentecost. It was presumably this cloud which is described in Genesis 3:8, which would be better translated as “And they heard the sound/voice of the Lord God coming to the garden in the breath/spirit of the day and they hid themselves…” It is likely that this visitation was similar to the cloud which descended upon Sinai and upon the mount of transfiguration. It is also likely the same cloud which, when opened, provided a glimpse into heaven at the baptism of Jesus (with its allusion to Genesis 1, the Spirit hovering over the deep), at His ascension, and again at the martyrdom of Stephen. The Lord always comes “with” or “in” clouds, and when He does, He comes to judge.

Of course, judgment does not necessarily mean punishment. The Lord came down to judge Babel, Egypt and Sodom, and it each case the result was cursing. In the case of Ezekiel, it seems the prophet was actually taken up in or by the chariot in Spirit that he might witness the sins of Jerusalem, God and a “son of man” serving as two legal witnesses, explaining the phrase “Come, let us go down…” in Genesis 11:7, when God brought confusion. The pillar of cloud also brought confusion upon Pharaoh’s armies, and it was likely present when the armies of Midian were confused under the watch of Gideon. But when the cloud came upon the Tabernacle and Temple, upon the Son, and upon His saints on the Day of Pentecost, as a mighty, rushing wind, the Lord was happy to bless. The arrival of the chariot of God, unlike the chariot of Pharaoh, is a chariot which brings not only vengeance but also redemption. It is the chariot of the almighty ga’al, the one who bears a two-edged sword to slay the wicked and cut the bonds of the righteous.

So, is it beyond possibility that the chariot of God was the cause of the three hours of darkness, recorded across the oikoumene, while Christ was on the cross? After all, the final chapters of Ezekiel present this Jew-Gentile social construct as a temple, with the Land of Israel as its holy altar. The Lord was coming to His temple to inspect it for “leprosy.” According to the Law, the leprosy had to be cut out, but if it returned, the house would be destroyed. Jesus was crucified “outside the camp,” like a leper (see Leviticus 14, and The Leprous House). He was the one being “cut out” that the house might be spared. But as Jesus predicted, the cleaned house would be filled with even worse demons (see Seven Spirits More Wicked), and its response to being cleansed would be a return to corruption in an even greater way. The Veil of the Temple was torn, but when the Lord later returned “in the clouds” the Temple was torn down. Not one stone was left upon another.

And he shall break down the house, its stones and timber and all the plaster of the house, and he shall carry them out of the city to an unclean place (Leviticus 14:45)

This means that the entire Land was under judgment, and Jesus was at the center of the court. He had been condemned by the High Priesthood (Garden), by Herod (Land) and by Pilate (World), the entirety of the oikoumene “Tabernacle.” Now He was being judged by heaven, and for the will of heaven be done on earth required the “bowing of the heavens,” that is, a visit from the heavenly court via the glory cloud, a symbolic reunion of the waters above and below in a prefiguring of final judgment (see “Bowing the Heavens” in my book Inquiétude for more discussion.) God was visiting the Garden, and Adam was exposed in His court. The events that transpired recapitulate those of Psalm 18 – including the earthquake –with one major difference: the Father did not hear, and did not deliver, the Man who cried out to Him.

The cords of death encompassed me;
the torrents of destruction assailed me;
the cords of Sheol entangled me;
the snares of death confronted me.

In my distress I called upon the Lord;
to my God I cried for help.
From his temple he heard my voice,
and my cry to him reached his ears.

Then the earth reeled and rocked;
the foundations also of the mountains trembled
and quaked, because he was angry.

Smoke went up from his nostrils,
and devouring fire from his mouth;
glowing coals flamed forth from him.

He bowed the heavens and came down;
thick darkness was under his feet.

He rode on a cherub and flew;
he came swiftly on the wings of the wind.
He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him,
thick clouds dark with water.

What does this mean for the significance of the three hours of darkness? That the Christ who “became sin for us” was trodden underfoot like an enemy, or a serpent, the blood upon the kapporet, the footstool of God (see Peter Leithart, The Footstool of His Feet.) To conquer sin, He became sin. To make His enemies His footstool (Psalm 110:1; Luke 20:43; Hebrews 10:13), He would first be trampled underfoot, and it would please the Lord to bruise Him (Isaiah 53:10). The holy presence which overshadowed Mary at Jesus’ conception (Luke 1:35) now overshadowed the entire nation at His death.

This abandonment of the Son by the Father was not “spatial” but legal. The Father presided over the Son in the seat of Moses, surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. This courtroom “betrayal,” a perjury in the sense that He changed His previous testimonies concerning the blamelessness and authority of the Son, was as close-to-home as the kiss of Judas. In this final act, the Father crossed the floor and stood with Judas, with Ananias, with those who beat, spat upon and ridiculed Jesus, with Pilate, with the crowd, and with the thief who cursed Him on the cross.

The word “sacrifice” connotes the idea of “near bringing” (see James B. Jordan, Leviticus 1:2). It was this reversal of judgment, through substitutionary atonement, that the angels “standing at the four corners of the Land,” those who stood prepared to vindicate the Son by immediately destroying the city and the Land (as predicted in Daniel 9:25-26), were told: “Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God” (Revelation 7:1-3).

At the Day of Pentecost, the brightness of the cloud was visited upon those who believed, and the darkness of strong delusion upon those who refused to believe. In the Gospel, this dividing “sword” was extended right across the empire. This “visitation” by the Spirit, whose indwelling turned every believer into a chariot (epitomised and signified in the miraculous travel of Philip in Acts 8:38-39), explains the inspiration and perseverance of the Jew-Gentile saints and the strong delusion which confused and confounded their Jew-Gentile enemies, who turned on each other, eventuating in their destruction at the coming of Christ with all His martyred sons, including Abel (Matthew 23:35), on white horses as a cloud of “witnesses” (martyrs) against the first century “Babylon.” These saints were God’s chariot.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)

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