The Temple was seen as a miniature “Eden.” For example, the Kodesh ha Kodeshim is like the Garden, then you move “east” through the veils which had Cherubim on them. The outer courts was Eden itself. The Temple courts also teach the ages we have discussed in Part 1. As you approach the Kodesh ha Kodeshim, it is like getting closer to the Olam Haba. There is a book called “Judaism in the First Century of the Christian Era” that goes into these ages and explains texts that say the Olam Haba begins at the Yom’ot Mashiach, or the Atid Lavo. We have given several examples on how this is a reality.
This also means that we are caught in time, but those that have been resurrected are not! Yeshua is the First Fruits, the “bikkurim” and he is in the Olam Haba, but we are in the Olam ha Zeh. There will be a resurrection at the beginning of the Atid Lavo (which is also called the Messianic Kingdom, the Day of the Lord, the Millennium). We will pass out of time due to the Natzal (“we shall all be changed”) but others will be in the Atid Lavo. The Olam Haba is after the Atid Lavo, but it is already here. Another thing we need to keep in mind is that when we talk about these ages, we need to look at them in two aspects. One is chronological, and the other is state of being. When we do a timeline, we list the ages in chronological order. The Olam ha Zeh is followed by the Atid Lavo, then the Olam Haba and so on. But, when it comes to the state of being of an individual, they can be in the Olam Haba, but living in the Olam ha Zeh or the Atid Lavo. When Yeshua was on the cross, he was in the Olam ha Zeh. At his resurrection three days later, he was in the Olam Haba, even though he appeared to people who are still in the Olam ha Zeh. This has to do with their state of being.
The Garden of Eden (Gan Eden) is also likened in Hebrew thought to heaven. We are not going to be angels playing harps because all of that is a fabrication. Heaven was not made for man, the earth was. When we think of Gan Eden, people think of a rain forest like Hawaii, or something similar. But, not much is known about it. However, there are two items or aspects of Gan Eden that we are going to deal with in this teaching. They are the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and the Tree of Life. Adam and Chava ate from the Tree of Knowledge, and now they decided what was good and evil, and that was bad. Jeremiah 17.9 says that the heart is very wicked, and who can understand it. The Tree of Life is the other tree, and if Adam ate from that tree after he sinned, he would have been sealed in that status or “state of being.” So, what did the Lord put in the Garden to guard this tree? Gen 3.23-24 says that he placed the Cherubim (at least two) to guard the way to the tree of life. When we go to the Temple, the veils that separate us from the Holy of Holies have Cherubim on them.
God has promised that he will redeem us back to the Garden, after we have come “full circle” again (1 Cor 15.24-25). Worship is the path to Gan Eden. To “ascend” in the Temple is like going to Gan Eden. This also involves knowledge, or “da’at.” The enemy has a counterfeit and a substitute for all this called “paganism.” Man cannot approach God as a “mortal” and sin needed to be dealt with. Man had to be raised from mortal to immortal. Man had to be driven from the tree of life because somehow it “sealed” you in a mortal body. Man will now be raised and taken to the tree of life. God will not allow sin in the Olam Haba, but that is another subject. For more information on this aspect, see our teaching “The Sovereignty of God and the Elect” on this site. The enemy has tried to interrupt this pattern through paganism.
In the book of Micah, we know that the Assyrians are coming to judge the land because it has gone into paganism. This sin started in a place called Lachish (Micah 1.13) and these practices were not wiped out when Israel took the land. On the contrary, Asherah worship spread like a disease and the Lord was going to have to judge his people and drive them out of the land. King Manasseh set up an Asherah in the Temple (2 Kings 21.7). Now, and Asherah is made out of a tree (Deut 16.21-22) and you can see right away how this is a counterfeit to the tree of life created by God. You cannot plant an Asherah, or any tree, near the Altar in the Temple. There are many pictures in books and paintings that show trees near the altar in the Temple, but these are highly inaccurate. An Asherah (feminine singular) is of a female goddess, and an Asherim (masculine plural) has different masculine plural aspects to this, but this word is impossible in Hebrew, but the Lord uses it. An Asherot has multiple female goddesses and imagery. All three words are used in the Scriptures.
In Lachish, they found a vase with an Asherah on it. She was the consort to Ba’al. Asherah is a fertility goddess. An Asherim in the Scriptures is a feminine goddess with male attributes of fertility, a mixture of feminine and masculine. Tree trunks were next to what is called the “mazavot” or “pillars” and these are also forbidden. In other words, God has a tree of life, but there is also a pagan tree of life. The Asherah is represented by these in the Scriptures: a green tree by itself; a tree that is chopped down and trimmed; and an idol that is carved or it has a ‘god” stuck or nailed to it. In 1 Kings 18.18-19 we have the story of Elijah and the prophets of Ba’al and Asherah (husband and wife). They all gather at Mt. Carmel and Elijah asks in v 21 “How long will you hesitate between two opinions.” The word “hesitate” is “pawsach” and it has the same root as “pesach” or Passover. It means to “leap over, to fly back and forth like a bird.” This is because the people are mixing the true worship of God with paganism. In Exo 32.1-5 we have the incident of the Golden Calf, and the people said “this is your God” but they were going to have a festival to the Lord (YHVH in Hebrew). They had a golden calf with YHVH in mind. It is the same with Elijah and the prophets of Ba’al and Asherah. Jereboam did the same thing in 1 Kings 12.23-33 where he made golden calves, set up new festivals, places of worship and priesthood. They thought they were worshipping God, and this is nothing but an example of replacement theology. Today, there are counterfeits in the name of the Lord all around us.
As you travel through the Temple, you travel through the ages and the Temple was seen as a miniature Gan Eden. There are some who believe that Gan Eden was on the spot where the Temple Mount is today, but that again is another story. The outer courts of the Temple correspond to the Olam ha Zeh, divided into three parts called Tohu, Torah and the Yomot Mashiach. The Ha Kodesh (Holy Place) is the Atid Lavo and the Kodesh ha Kodeshim (Holy of Holies) is the Olam Haba. Deut 16.21 says that we are not to plant any Asherah, or a standing pillar (mazavot) near the altar. These activities of idolatry run contrary to the Torah and the true worship of God. An Asherah was also called “the tree of life” and there are images of animals eating the tree for fertility and life. This deception is still among us. We are not to judge for ourselves (Judges 21.25) about these things because the Lord has already told us about them, and our hearts are wicked to begin with. We already have a tree of the knowledge of good and evil called the Torah/Scriptures. But, what we are trying to bring out before we go on is that there is a counterfeit.
The Israelites did not destroy all the Canaanite temples, Asherim and Ba’alim. This is why it says in Micah 1.13 that the beginning of Israel’s sin can be found in Lachish. These sins spread through Israel, and sacred tree’s were considered a tree of life if they were placed in such a way where animals and people looked to it for life, like on the vase found at Lachish. For a good source for more information on this, go to the Jewish Encyclopedia and the “Groves and Tree’s” article. Also, look up “Asherah” for more detail. These things were practiced in Asia as well, not just the Middle east. The tree is replaced by the “pubic triangle” of a woman on this vase at Lachish.. Pendants have been found with this sexual imagery on them, and the Asherah is all over. On these pendants, there is a tree coming out of the pubic triangle, and this is what makes it an Asherim. (male/female imagery). Jer 10.1-6 is talking about making an Asherah.
What we are trying to establish is that there is a counterfeit that has been developed that replaces the trees found in Gan Eden, and that it a very important concept to keep in mind as we begin to get into the heart of this teaching. There is a tree of knowledge of good and evil and a tree of life given by God, and there is a counterfeit set up by the same “serpent” (nachash) of Gen 3.1. In Part 3, we will pick up here and begin to develop some very important concepts that will help us understand what is going on in Gen 3 and the fall of man, but how this applies to us today.