What’s a Temple?
Webster’s Dictionary defines the word “temple” as “a building for religious practice”; “either of two successive national sanctuaries in ancient Jerusalem”; “a building for Mormon sacred ordinances”; “the house of worship of Reform and some Conservative Jewish congregations”; “a local lodge of any of various fraternal orders” or “a place devoted to a special purpose”.
Tabernacle in the Wilderness
In the book of Exodus, God directed Moses to build a sanctuary that He may dwell with His covenant people.
“And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them. According to all that I shew thee, after the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the instruments thereof, even so shall ye make it”. (Exodus 25:8-9)
God instructed that worship would be in a centralized tent structure where there would be a physical manifestation of His presence.
“Then a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle,” (Exodus 40:34).
Here we see God commissioning the tabernacle as a house of worship where He intended to manifest His presence visibly.
After the nation of Israel dwelt securely in the land King David wanted to build a permanent Temple to replace this mobile Tabernacle. Because David was a man of war God directed David’s son Solomon to build this temple. At the seven-day inaugural celebration, The Ark of the Covenant was brought into the Temple. The Ark of the Covenant was the special gold-lined cedar chest where the Presence of God was manifested, descending from heaven between the outstretched wings of the two golden cherubs. For the next 410 years, the Jewish people would bring daily offerings to this magnificent Temple. Solomon’s reign was a golden era for the nation of Israel. His capital, Jerusalem, became the center of wisdom and riches throughout the world. However, at the end of King Solomon’s life, he was guilty of indiscretions unbefitting his great stature.
In 1 Kings 11:6 we read: “And Solomon did evil in the sight of the LORD, and went not fully after the LORD, as did David his father.”
After Solomon’s death, the kingdom was torn in two when the ten northern tribes refused to accept Solomon’s son Rehoboam as their king. The country divided into two kingdoms: the northern Kingdom of Israel and the southern Kingdom of Judah (containing Jerusalem).
The Kings of Israel practiced idolatry as did many of the Kings of Judah. God sent prophets to warn the Jews, but they refused to change their ways. For example, Zechariah warned the nation of the grave punishments that would befall them if they would not change their ways. But rather than accept his rebuke, the nation stoned Zechariah to death in the Temple courtyard. In 555 BCE, the northern kingdom fell to the Assyrians. Thus ended the Kingdom of Israel.
The Kingdom of Judah survived the Assyrian threat and lasted another 150 years. Eventually, they would fall victim to the Babylonians. Jeremiah prophesied about the Babylonian threat, warning the Jews of the terrible devastation to come unless they stopped worshiping idols. However, the Jews didn’t listen. Instead, they mocked and persecuted him.
God’s judgment on Israel was in the way of the Babylonians as mentioned in 2 Kings 24:9-10. “And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his father had done. At that time the servants of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up against Jerusalem, and the city was besieged.”
Solomon’s Temple Destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar
In 425 BCE, Nebuchadnezzar pillaged Jerusalem. Hunger and epidemics ravaged the city. The walls of the city were torn down. Fire destroyed The Holy Temple. All the gold and silver were carried off as loot by the Babylonian soldiers. The High Priest and many other officials were executed. The destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple ended the empire of David and Solomon. God punished His people for deserting Him and His laws.
Herod Rebuilt the Temple
The prophet Jeremiah prophesied that the Jewish people would return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple. That came to pass 70 years later just as predicted by the prophet Daniel. The Jewish governor Zerubbabel rebuilt the Temple under King Cyrus of Persia and King Darius II. In 350 BCE, it was completed. The temple was later expanded by Herod the Great around 30 BC.
Jesus Predicts the Destruction of the 2nd Temple
During the last days of his life, Jesus assembled his disciples together on the Mt. of Olives. His disciples opened the conversation by talking about the beauty of the temple. Jesus amazed them by predicting the soon-coming destruction of that magnificent building.
In Matthew 24:1-2 we read: “And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to shew him the buildings of the temple. And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? Verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.”
Luke Chapter 21 Verse 20 gives details of this predicted overthrow of the city and Temple: “And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh.”
Titus, the Roman General began the siege of Jerusalem in April of 70 A.D. Interestingly, Solomon’s first Temple and Herod’s second were both destroyed on the same day, the 10th of August exactly 656 years apart!
General Titus took the city and burned down the Temple. According to the Jewish Historian Josephus, Roman soldiers killed 1.1 million Jews and led 97,000 away as captives. Roman soldiers tore apart the stones to get the melted gold. Thus, Jesus’ prophecy regarding the Temples’ destruction was fulfilled – not one stone left upon another!
All Attempts to Rebuild the Temple Have Failed
There has not been a physical temple in Jerusalem since 70 A.D. All attempts to build a third Jewish Temple have thus far failed. According to the New Testament, Jesus’ death and resurrection fulfilled the need for ceremonial sacrifices performed by the Levitical priesthood over the previous 1500 years. These sacrifices pointed to the offering up of the Lamb of God for the sins of Israel and the world.
We read in Acts 7:48-50: “Howbeit the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet, Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool: what house will ye build me? Saith the Lord: or what is the place of my rest? Hath not my hand made all these things?”
The idea that Jesus is the temple of God is proclaimed throughout the New Testament. John records an event between Jesus and the Jews in which He declares that His body is the temple of God.
In John 2:18-21 we read: “Then answered the Jews and said unto him, What sign shewest thou unto us, seeing that thou doest these things? Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days? But he spake of the temple of his body.”
Jesus – the Temple of God
A cross was used to crucify Jesus. But in three days the Spirit of God raised Him from the dead, as He Himself prophesied. There is a spiritual Body of Christ now, comprised of those who believe in Him, which the New Testament teaches is the Temple of God. The scriptures declare that believers are that Temple. God dwells in us, and we are called Holy. Our Bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit. In 1 Peter 2:4-7 we read that Christians are “lively stones” a “holy priesthood” and “a Spiritual House”.
Born Again Christians Are Temples of God
In 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 Paul asks the believers in Corinth a question:
“Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?
Then he follows up with a warning that:
“If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him.” And finally Paul gives the reason for his warning, ” For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.“
We see this theme of the saints of God being the temple again in Ephesians 2:22. The scriptures declare that believers are growing “into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.”
Finally, the last part of Webster’s definition of the word “temple” is “a place devoted to a special purpose”. Born again Christians are that “place”! We are that “place devoted to a special purpose”. The Spirit of God no longer dwells in a physical building. Born-again believers in Jesus Christ are the new and Living Temple of God, made without hands. We are His Body, His Church, His Assembly, replacing the old that was done away with to make room for the fulfillment of the real and permanent!