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Enjoying God Blog

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A recent article by Abby Trivett at charismanews.com was titled, Temple Institute Doubles Down on Rebuilding of Third Temple (April 16, 2024). According to Trivett,

“In the wake of Iran’s missile and drone launches against Israel, devout Jews have double-downed on their belief and dedication to the rebuilding of the Third Temple.

The Temple Institute in Jerusalem has generated a lot of attention to when it comes to the rebuilding of the temple. From the discussion of the red heifer sacrifice, all eyes have been placed on Jerusalem. Now, in the middle of uncertainty, The Temple Institute has decided to stay committed to their vow that the Jewish people must rebuild.

Again,

“When we see evidence of Iran’s barrage of hundreds of missiles and suicide drones over the Temple Mount, where the Dome of the Rock stands where the Holy Temple once stood, where David purchased the threshing floor from Ornan the Jebusite, we are reminded of the awesome obligation which rests upon the shoulders of Israel to fulfill the word of HaShem and build for Him ‘a house of prayer for all nations,’ (Isaiah 56:7)” The Temple Institute wrote on Facebook.

What are we to make of this? I’ve written on this before, but it seems that we need to evaluate such claims once again. Here is what I said about this in my book, Kingdom Come: The Amillennial Alternative.

Many (biblical texts) affirm that Jesus was the true temple of God, the one in whom the OT physical structure finds its perfect expression. But . . . (some people) insist that God will approve and oversee the construction of yet another (third) physical temple in conjunction with events at the end of the age.

The starting point for understanding this crucial concept is the Old Testament narrative in which we find the visible manifestation of the splendor of God among his people, the shekinah of God, his majestic and radiant glory without which the Israelites would have been left in the darkness that characterized the Gentile world. Before Solomon’s temple, God revealed his glory in the tent or tabernacle which Moses constructed. It was there that God would come, dwell, and meet with his people. “Let them make me a sanctuary,” the Lord spoke to Moses, “that I may dwell in their midst” (Ex. 25:8). It was there that “the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent, and [there that] the Lord would speak with Moses” (Ex. 33:9). It was there that “the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle” (Ex. 40:34). The tabernacle was where the people of Israel would draw near to hear from God, to worship God, and to stand in his presence (cf. Lev. 9:23; Num. 14:10).

What was true of the tabernacle during the days of Israel’s sojourn was even more the case in the temple of Solomon. When the Ark of the Covenant was brought “to its place, in the inner sanctuary of the house, in the Most Holy Place, underneath the wings of the cherubim” (2 Chron. 5:7), “the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of God” (2 Chron. 5:14).

It is against this preparatory backdrop that we read the stunning declaration of the Apostle John that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). The word translated “dwelt” (skenoo) literally means “to pitch a tent” or “to live in a tabernacle” and unmistakably points back to the OT when God’s glory took up residence in the tent of Moses, the portable tabernacle, and eventually in Solomon’s temple.

John’s point is that God has now chosen to dwell with his people in a yet more personal way, in the Word who became flesh: in Jesus! The Word, Jesus of Nazareth, is the true and ultimate shekinah glory of God, the complete and perfect manifestation of the presence of God among his people. The place of God’s glorious dwelling is the flesh of his Son! The glory which once shined in the tent/tabernacle/temple of old, veiled in the mysterious cloud, was simply a fore-glow, a mere anticipatory flicker, if you will, of that exceedingly excelling glory now embodied in the incarnate Word, Jesus Christ (cf. Col. 1:19).

God no longer lives in a tent or tabernacle built by human hands, nor will he ever. God’s glorious manifest presence is not to be found in an ornate temple of marble, gold, and precious stones, but rather in Jesus. Jesus is the glory of God in human flesh, the one in whom God has finally and fully pitched his tent.

The point is that the temple of the Old Covenant was a type or foreshadowing of the glory of Christ. . . It was the place where the Law of Moses was preserved, of which Jesus is now the fulfillment. It was the place of revelation and relationship, where God met and spoke to his people. Now we hear God and see God and meet God in Jesus. It was the place of sacrifice, where forgiveness of sins was obtained. For that, we now go to Jesus (see Mark 2:1-12). Israel worshipped and celebrated in the temple in Jerusalem. We now worship in spirit and truth, regardless of geographical locale (cf. John 4:20-26).

To meet God, to talk with God, to worship God, you no longer come to a building or a tent or a structure made with human hands. You come to Jesus! Jesus is the Temple of God! Gary Burge is right: “Divine space is now no longer located in a place but in a person” (Jesus and the Land, 52)

But the story doesn’t end there. We, the church, are the body of Christ and therefore constitute the temple in which God is pleased to dwell. The shekinah of Yahweh now abides permanently and powerfully in us through the Holy Spirit. When Paul describes this in his letter to the Ephesians, he refers to Jesus Christ as the cornerstone, “in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit” (Eph. 2:21-22). Simply put, God’s residence is “neither a literal temple in Jerusalem nor simply heaven, but the Church, of which the Gentile Christian readers in Asia Minor were a part” (Andrew Lincoln, Ephesians, 158).

This formation of the temple is an on-going divine project, a continuous process (see also Eph. 4:15-16). Although it may seem strange to speak of a “building” experiencing continuous “growth”, Paul surely wants us to conceive of the church as an organic entity. Recall that Peter also refers to believers somewhat paradoxically as “living stones” (1 Peter 2:5)!

Again, Paul grounds his appeal to the Corinthians in this truth: “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple” (1 Cor. 3:16-17). In his plea for sexual purity, he again asks: “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Cor. 6:19-20; see also the graphic portrayal of this truth in 1 Peter 2:4-10).

All this brings us to Paul’s consummate declaration in 2 Corinthians 6:16b: “For we are the temple of the living God”! To reinforce this point he conflates several OT texts (Lev. 26:11-12; Isa. 52:11; Ezek. 11:17; 20:34, 41; 2 Sam. 7:14) which prophesied of a coming temple, one of which is Ezekiel 37:26-27 where God declares: “I will make a covenant of peace with them. It shall be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will set them in their land and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in their midst forevermore. My dwelling place shall be with them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”

Let me come straight to the point. Beginning with the incarnation and consummating in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, together with the progressive building of his spiritual body, the Church, God is fulfilling his promise of an eschatological temple in which he will forever dwell.

But what of the literal, physical temple in Jerusalem? Has it lost its spiritual significance in God’s redemptive purposes? To answer this we must look to Jesus’ words in Matthew 23-24. . .

In judgment against the Jewish people, the temple complex was abandoned by our Lord, both physically and spiritually, as he departed and made his way to the Mount of Olives. “Your house,” said Jesus, “is left to you desolate” (Matt. 23:38). It has thus ceased to be “God’s” house. When Jesus died and “the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom” (Mt. 27:51), God forever ceased to bless it with his presence or to acknowledge it as anything other than ichabod (the glory has departed).

Just as dramatically as Jesus had entered Jerusalem (Matt. 21:1-17, the so-called “Triumphal Entry”) and its temple, he now departs. This once grand and glorious house of God is now consigned exclusively to them (“See, your house is left to you desolate,” Matt. 23:38; emphasis mine). The echoes of God’s withdrawal from the temple in Ezekiel’s vision reverberate in the words of our Lord (see Ezek. 10:18-19; 11:22-23). The ultimate physical destruction of the temple by the Romans in 70 a.d. is but the outward consummation of God’s spiritual repudiation of it. Jesus has now left, never to return. Indeed, the action of Jesus in departing the temple and taking his seat on the Mount of Olives (Matt. 24:3) recalls Ezekiel 11:23 where we read that “the glory of the Lord went up from the midst of the city and stood on the mountain that is on the east side of the city.”

This applies equally to any supposed future temple that many believe will be built in Jerusalem in the general vicinity where the Dome of the Rock now stands. It’s entirely possible, of course, that people in Israel may one day build a temple structure and resume their religious activities within it. The political and military implications of such, not to mention the religious furor it would provoke, are obvious. Whether or not this will ever occur is hard to say, but if it does it will have no eschatological or theological significance whatsoever, other than to rise up as a stench in the nostrils of God. The only temple in which God is now and forever will be pleased to dwell is Jesus Christ and the Church, his spiritual body.

It would be an egregious expression of the worst imaginable redemptive regression to suggest that God would ever sanction the rebuilding of the temple. It would be tantamount to a denial that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. It would constitute a repudiation of the Church as the temple of God and thus an affront to the explicit affirmation of Paul here in 2 Corinthians 6 and elsewhere.

Finally, let’s not lose sight of the practical point Paul is making in this passage in 2 Corinthians 6. It is because we as the church are the place of God’s presence in the world today that we must guard ourselves against any and every expression of idolatry. We are not simply another cultural institution or “social service meeting the felt needs” of our neighbors. “Instead, as the new covenant people of God, the church is the ‘family of God’ united by a common identity in Christ and gathered around her common worship and fear of ‘the Lord Almighty” (Scott Hafemann, 2 Corinthians, 292). May our lives always reflect that glorious and gracious identity.

4 Comments

Excellent read. Thank you. What’s your take on 2 Thessalonians 2:4?

Wes
According to Wikipedia:

“ There was an aborted project under Roman emperor Julian (361–363 CE) to rebuild the Temple. According to later ancient sources, including Sozomen (c. 400–450 CE) in his Historia Ecclesiastica and the pagan historian and close friend of Julian, Ammianus Marcellinus, the project of rebuilding the temple was aborted because each time the workers tried to build the temple using the existing substructure, they were burned by terrible flames coming from inside the earth and an earthquake destroyed what work was done…”

“ In 610 CE, the Sassanid Empire drove the Byzantine Empire out of the Middle East, giving the Jews control of Jerusalem for the first time in centuries. The new rulers soon ordered the restart of animal sacrifice for the first time since the time of Bar Kochba. Shortly, before the Byzantines took the area back, the Persians gave control to the Christian population, who tore down the partly built edifice, and turned it into a garbage dump…”
Excellent article! Of course….it is so obvious and clear! Thank you sir!
Personally, I don’t think the truth of either, a literal Third Temple or Messiah ultimately fulfilling the role of the “Tabernacle of God” (Rev 21:3), requires the exclusion of the other.

In his JEWISH NEW TESTAMENT COMMENTARY, the late Dr. David Stern wrote:
“The Temple of God. In addition to the Tent of Meeting (the Tabernacle) and the heavenly original after which it was modeled (see 15:5&N, MJ 8:2-6a&N), Scripture mentions six literal temples:
1. Solomon's, the First Temple (1 Kings 5-8).
2. Z’rubavel's, the Second Temple (Haggai 1-2, Ezra 3:4-13).
3. Herod's, called the rebuilt Second Temple or, by some, the Third Temple (Mt 21:12ff., 24:1-2; Yn 2:19-20).
4. A future temple in the days of Anti-Messiah (Daniel 9:27, 11:45, 12:7; Mt 24:15; 2 Th 2:3-4; and here).
5. A future temple in the days of the Messiah (Ezekiel 40-48, Zechariah 6:12-15).
6. The temple in heaven (below at 7:15; 11:19; 14:15, 17; 16:17).
“Besides, there are three figurative ones:
1. The Messianic Community (1C 3:16-17, 2C 6:16, Ep 2:21).
2. The physical body of a believer (1C 6:19).
3. God and the Lamb (in the New Jerusalem; Revelation 21:22).”

Will there be a literal Third Temple? For 2Ths 2:4 to be fulfilled, a rebuilt Temple would seem to be necessary, though it may also be destroyed after only a short time.

Moreover, to assert, “There will be no literal, rebuilt Temple because Christ has replaced it,” concerns me, because doing so would seem to perpetuate testimony the New Testament itself characterizes as “false” and “blasphemous” (Acts 6:11-14). Either Stephen was guilty as charged, or the gentile Church is guilty of perpetuating the same false and blasphemous testimony for nearly 1800 years and placing a nearly insurmountable stumbling block between Jews and the Gospel.

It also concerns me because it casts James, Paul, and tens of thousands of Jewish believers still observing Torah (including Temple sacrifice) 20+ years after the Resurrection in an unfavorable light as disingenuous, cultural chameleons or misguided legalists. I say, “Balderdash!” Continued Torah observance in Acts is as valid an expression of faith in Yeshua as it will be in future, when Messiah reigns on the throne of David (Zec 14:16-19).

Does Jesus and the Body of Christ figuratively fulfill the role of the Temple? Absolutely! In a manner of speaking, Messiah coming on the clouds of heaven (Dan 7:13, Mk 14:62, Lk 21:27, Acts 1:11) also fulfills the expectation among some Jews that the final Temple will be built by HaShem and descend from heaven (See Jn 2:19, Mt 26:61, Rev 21:22). Moreover, Regarding the expectations of Dan 7:13…”riding on a cloud,” I suspect there is a remez at work in that verse. Notice He is (Ps 22:3) “enthroned on the praises of His people,” and His witnesses/martyrs/armies are part of a (Heb 12:1) “cloud of witnesses,” and they are (Rev 7:9,13-14,19:14) “clothed in white.”

A literal Third Temple being built and Christ fulfilling the role of “Tabernacle of God”…BOTH can be true.

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