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Josh GraumanAs I mentioned in my previous blog, I am excited to be starting a new program in South LA for training cross-cultural church planters. In this post I want to dive in to what the program is going to look like.

My heart as a pastor is to walk in discipleship with people. Some might take that to mean that study should be informal and non-structured, but discipleship doesn’t mean “non-academic.” Discipleship should include rigorous study of Scripture. We have designed The Apprenticeship to include both structured teaching (a full 3-year, 93-unit M.Div. level program), as well as walking alongside our pastors in inner-city ministry. We will study Hebrew, Greek, and Genesis to Revelation chapter by chapter.

Why go into so much depth in such a “practical” program (roughly 75% of the formal program is Bible and original languages)? In short, it is because we believe in the sufficiency of Scripture. Studying the Bible in depth is extremely practical. While some may view Judges, Jonah, or Jude to be books that may change your theology but aren’t very practical, we believe each of these books have massive implications for your daily lives and topics as commonplace as how you relate to your next-door neighbor.

At Eternity Bible College, we spend about half of our class time doing Biblical Theology. This means that we study Scripture from Genesis to Revelation, which allows us to focus on what God focuses on in the Bible. As a professor, I don’t choose the topics that are important to me. God has already set our agenda in Scripture. And by walking through Scripture chapter by chapter, we can see how revelation unfolds in God’s time, and keep context primary in our study.

We are adopting this same model for studying Scripture in The Apprenticeship. Students will develop the tools to derive their theology and practice from Scripture alone, and will be freed from the shackles of pragmatism and legalism.

This fits perfectly into our vision of equipping apprentices to plant churches cross-culturally. Church planters must be able to rigorously study Scripture on their own, and know how to derive theology, philosophy of ministry, and application to a wide variety of circumstances and topics. Every culture is unique, and yet the Bible is the answer to all the problems of every subculture around the world. So that’s why such a large portion of our program focuses on teaching the apprentices how to rightly divide the Word and apply it in various contexts. (Click for more info on the importance of Biblical Theology or Hebrew and Greek.)

Hebrew BibleYet we still believe that our study of Scripture must be applied to daily life or it hasn’t been understood correctly. In fact, it is impossible to understand the Bible as God intended without applying it to real life. The Bible addresses our thoughts, motives, and lifestyles, and so to understand it properly we must be in contexts where these are dealt with. And so that is why I am so passionate about the rest of our program. There will be lots of time for “fireside” discussions, prayer, and doing ministry and life together. Although I am going to be heading up the program, our apprentices will also learn from and walk with other pastors as we minister in the inner city together. Here we have cultures colliding as many hispanics are moving into one of the oldest African American neighborhoods in Los Angeles, and we have the privilege of planting a church here that brings the unity and hope of the gospel.

Once again there is a lot more information on our website, but that gives you an idea of what I am going to be embarking upon. We would ask that you keep us in prayer and if you know anyone interested in training for cross-cultural church planting, that you direct them our way! Click here for more info.

Josh GraumanI recently announced that I will be leading an internship program through my church, Cornerstone South LA. We call it The Apprenticeship, and it’s designed to train cross-cultural church planters. This is something that has been in my mind for quite a long time, and I’m excited to see it becoming a reality.

As anyone who knows me well can attest, I have always viewed myself first and foremost as a pastor. For the past ten years I have loved being a part of what Eternity Bible College is doing, investing in students, and even being able to help design the curriculum. I love Eternity’s heart and vision. And yet I have always felt a tension when teaching students that I have not been able to disciple outside of the classroom. As much as I can teach students in class, my passion is to invest in people through the local church.

It was this tension that led me to pursue teaching the Old Testament module at our Simi Valley campus. The last few years have been amazing as I’ve been able to teach the same group of students for nine hours every week, guiding them through the entire Old Testament. This has been a great experience for me and I know the process benefits the students. Yet my heart yearns for the kind of discipleship that can only take place outside of the classroom.

The Bible was written to deal with real life. So it is only in the context of life that we can really understand and apply what the Bible is trying to teach us. If we are only thinking about the Bible in a theoretical way, we are missing the point! As Jesus says, all true learning results in becoming like your teacher (Luke 6:40). That is why I always encourage students who are pursuing further education not to go study under “smart” people, but under people they want to emulate.

The Apprenticeship

This tension between academic learning and practical application is at the heart of everything Eternity Bible College does. I have observed that it is only when I am walking with students in the context of real life that I can bring up things that we learned in class that apply to specific situations. It is only when we see weaknesses or blind spots in real life that we can remind each other about what we have learned.

So I want to spend whatever time I have left on this earth investing in life-on-life discipleship. We are all here on this earth to fulfill our God-given mission to make disciples.

As I teach in a classroom setting, I know that my students are walking with their pastors and church families to apply the truths they are learning in the classroom. This is something Eternity requires and takes very seriously. As I evaluate my own heart, I want to take personal responsibility for those whom I am teaching, as Paul commands Timothy to do (2 Tim. 2:2). I want to walk with younger men in the trenches of local church ministry as we flesh out the deep truths of Scripture that we are learning in class. I believe this is something that God has gifted me to do, and I am excited to invest more deeply into a smaller group in the context of inner city ministry.

In a future post I will talk a little bit about what the program will look like, but in the meantime, feel free to look at the program website.

Last time we argued that the finality of Christ’s sacrifice doesn’t rule out future sacrifices pointing to His. Then we argued that when Scripture uses images and symbols it explains them so that the text can still be taken at face value.


Ezekiel explains the images he uses

So how does this bear on our reading of Ezekiel 40-48? When Ezekiel uses symbolic imagery, he also explains what the symbols represent. The vision of the flaming chariot throne in chapter 1 is explained to represent a vision of the glory of Yahweh. The riddle about an eagle and a cedar in chapter 17 is explained in detail. The two harlots in Ezekiel 23 are explained to be Samariah and Jerusalem. The valley of dry bones in chapter 37 is explained to represent the nation of Israel, etc.

Ezekiel's TempleBut when we get to Ezekiel 40-48, no such interpretation or explanation is given. Ezekiel spends nine chapters describing the temple, the priests, and the sacrificial system in great detail. And yet as far as I can see there is no hint in the text itself that it is not to be understood at face value. So how could the original readers come to any conclusion other than that God was promising to one day dwell with His people in a restored and renewed temple?

And if the original readers could only have understood God to be promising that one day He would rebuild the temple, is God’s faithfulness on the line to keep His promise? Ultimately, that is why I think this issue is worth discussing. Debating the intricacies of how or when future events will happen has little value for us to speculate on. But discussing and more accurately understanding what God has promised and how He will keep those promises gives us greater assurance in His faithfulness.


Haggai and Zechariah encourage the people with a future temple

In Haggai 2:6-7 God says,

“”For thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘Once more in a little while, I am going to shake the heavens and the earth, the sea also and the dry land. ‘I will shake all the nations; and they will come with the wealth of all nations, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the Lord of hosts.”

ProphetsThe people in Haggai’s day were discouraged because the temple that they were building didn’t seem significant. But God reassured them that the very temple they were building would one day be filled with glory. The very rocks that they laid down in restoring that temple are still in the temple mount today. And one day they will be incorporated into God’s future temple. How encouraging this would have been to them to know that their work had actual significance. But if there isn’t going to be a future temple, how does this encouragement from God have any bearing on their work? God’s logic here was: “Keep working on this temple for one day your work will be incorporated into God’s glorious future temple.”

Likewise, God says in Zechariah 6:12-13,

“Thus says the Lord of hosts, “Behold, a man whose name is Branch, for He will branch out from where He is; and He will build the temple of the Lord. “Yes, it is He who will build the temple of the Lord, and He who will bear the honor and sit and rule on His throne. Thus, He will be a priest on His throne, and the counsel of peace will be between the two offices.”‘

Just like in Haggai, here we see God giving the people encouragement that God’s plan would be brought to fulfillment. He will bring in His kingdom. That kingdom will be marked by perfect peace and justice as evidenced by the fact that the Messiah will be a priest-king. He will be perfectly righteous in His perfect sovereignty. And He is the one who will build God’s temple. I don’t see how the original hearers of Zechariah could have separated the face-value promise of the coming of the king priest from what He was coming to do, to build God’s glorious temple. And the text then assures the readers that when this prophecy comes true, they will know that Yahweh sent the Messiah as a vindication of His promise (6:15).

So the very logic that Haggai and Zechariah use to encourage the people depend upon taking the promise of the future temple at face value. I argue that the people in their day could only have understood these texts as a promise of a future temple and so we should take the promises in the same way.


New Jerusalem fulfills the concept of temple

I fully agree with Preston that the final fulfillment of the concept of temple is in the New Jerusalem. This is when God in His fullness, like never before, will dwell with His people. This is the final hope to which the temple ultimately points. In fact, Revelation 21 presents this final phase in God’s plan as new and absolutely unique: “Behold the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them.” And “I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.” But I believe John is contrasting the uniqueness of this final temple-less phase with what came before. Put another way, John shows us the physical temple in 11:1-2 that he specifically emphasizes is done away with in chapter 21, and so the most natural reading keeps it present in Christ’s reign in 20:1-6.

It is true that there are a lot of issues more important than whether or not there will be a physical temple in God’s future kingdom! But it is still good for us to wrestle so that we can more clearly understand God’s unchanging Word.

I want to thank Preston for his last three posts about a future temple, especially for bringing out the glorious reality of God’s presence dwelling with humanity. I always appreciate his passion to make scholarship edifying. While I agree with most of what he said, I do think that there will be a physical temple in God’s future kingdom. So in two posts let me take a minute to unpack why I think so and why I think it’s worth talking about.


Animal sacrifices never took away sins

Passover LambOne issue people commonly have with Ezekiel’s description of a future temple is the animal sacrifices. If Christ’s sacrifice paid for sin once-for-all (and it did), why would there be animal sacrifices in God’s kingdom in the future? But even that question raises another question: If Christ’s sacrifice paid for sin once-for-all (and it did), why were there animal sacrifices in the Old Testament? Did they actually pay for sin? The OT says that the sacrifices atoned for sin, but the author of Hebrews in speaking of the OT sacrifices says, “It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (10:4).

So how do we reconcile these two facts? I like to think of the OT sacrifices as checks. In the OT the only way to pay was with checks. But a check is worthless without money in the account. Jesus’ sacrifice is the money in the bank account needed to pay the bill. In the OT the checks paid the bill and were necessary to pay it. But then again, the check is just a piece of paper and is worthless without the money in the bank! So while there was no other way to be forgiven besides the animal sacrifices, they were really an expression of faith in the deposit that would be made in Messiah.

The same is true of sacrifices in the kingdom. Both OT and kingdom sacrifices point to the only sacrifice that ever had the ability to pay for sin.


Images and symbols are explained in Scripture

So with the primary obstacle out of the way, does the Bible teach that there will be a future physical temple in God’s kingdom or is the future temple described in a way that is meant to be interpreted symbolically? Before we dive into the text directly, let’s investigate how images and symbols are used in Scripture.

Hazard SignsWe need to admit up front that there is imagery and symbolism in the Bible. But I argue that our goal in interpretation is to seek to understand what the original hearers of the text would have understood as images and symbols, and what they would have taken at face value. When imagery and symbolism occur in Scripture, they almost always are accompanied by explanation or interpretation. Otherwise, how would the readers know what the text was supposed to mean?

Let me give one simple example. In Daniel 8, in an apocalyptic passage, there is a story about a ram and a goat. Read the chapter, and you’ll see that this is symbolic. But the text clearly explains what the symbols of the ram and the goat represent (8:20-21). So this clearly apocalyptic passage turns out in fact to be an incredibly accurate prophecy of many years of Medo-Persian and Greek history that actually happened (involving Alexander the Great and the kings after him)!

So while there is symbolism in Scripture, just because there is a symbol doesn’t take away from the face value meaning of the text as a whole because the text explains the meaning of the symbols. That is how even crazy apocalyptic passages with flying goats can accurately prophecy of the future. Likewise, when we investigate example after example of passages with symbolic imagery we see that the text explains what these symbols mean explicitly so that the readers could understand what the text was saying.

A lot more could be said on this topic as we’ve barely scratched the surface, but I at least wanted to briefly outline how I approach this question. I will do one more post showing how this applies to the way we look at Ezekiel 40-48 and then examine what I believe to be two even clearer texts that talk about a future temple in the kingdom. Feel free to chime in below with your thoughts as we spur one another on to think carefully about the text!

As Mark blogged about previously, we’re excited to roll out an online Greek and Hebrew program at Eternity. Mark talked about the benefits of learning Greek and Hebrew, which I recommend you read. I’ll emphasize a point he made in passing.

Most people think that we should study the languages in order to be more accurate in our theology and translation. While that is a good reason, you shouldn’t expect after learning one year of Greek or Hebrew to be correcting your ESV or NASB!

Hebrew BibleWhy do we learn the languages then? Because we want to see the emphasis of the original author. By studying Greek and Hebrew we are better able to see what the author is emphasizing and where he is going in his argument. We’re better able to understand the point of his sentence, paragraph, and book. It’s not that it isn’t there in the English translations, but sometimes it’s much harder to see the intention of the author without the original languages.

I want to answer a different question, though: Why would I want to learn Greek and Hebrew at Eternity? What makes our program different than all the other ways out there to study Greek and Hebrew?

Mark began with the most obvious reason that sets our program apart, that these are go-at-your-own-pace classes. One of the biggest hindrances I’ve seen over the last eight years of teaching Greek and Hebrew is that students are not all at the same place. Some pick up language more naturally than others, while some are able to devote much more time than others. Yet in a traditional class, we have to go at one pace. We shoot for the middle and hope the slow students can catch up and the fast students don’t get too bored.

But another major benefit of how we are teaching the languages at Eternity has to do with pedagogy (our philosophy of how to teach the languages). Now, while we cannot claim that our pedagogy is completely unique and there are other language classes that teach the languages based upon modern linguistic theory, this is a benefit of learning the languages here. Without getting into the details, we teach the languages based upon understanding how the language works rather than rote memorization of all the possible forms of words. Now, of course this doesn’t mean that there isn’t a lot to memorize when learning a language, but by using well established linguistic theory, we are able to cut down on unnecessary rote memorization and to teach the languages in a way that will stick with the student. We emphasize getting into the text quickly and learning the language through practice.

This gets into the part of the classes that I am personally most excited about. Having a background in Computer/Electrical Engineering, I have written a computer program that allows students to interactively look at the forms of Greek and Hebrew words. Scroll Tag Screen ShotThey can click on the various parts of the word, and the program will tell them what those various parts mean. There are also charts in the program that get marked up for each different part of the word. When you incorrectly identify a part of the word, the program is able to identify what part of the word you didn’t notice and will highlight that for you. We are excited that we will be giving the program away for free to all of our students who sign up for the languages! This allows students to practice identifying Greek and Hebrew words at home, which is what is needed. You can take a quick look at some screenshots at

Put that together with full length lectures online with many hours of instructional videos, access to the professor, and an affordable price, and we are praying that many will take the jump to studying and understanding God’s Word in greater depth!