Friday, March 10, 2006
The temple takes a prominent place in history. We have the tabernacle in the wilderness, replaced by Solomon's temple (957BC), destroyed in 587BC, Zerubbabel's temple (520BC), destroyed in 19BC, and then Herod's temple (19BC), destroyed in AD70. In the future, the Antichrist will build a temple in the tribulation period, which will be desecrated by him (Revelation 11:1, 2) and destroyed along with almost everything else, and finally the Lord Jesus Christ Himself will superintend the building of the Millennial Kingdom temple (Ezekiel 40-47). When you think about all this, you see this big chunk of time where the temple essentially existed 957BC to AD70. We have to see the continuity between the tabernacle in the wilderness and the temple, making this an even longer period of time (c. 1440BC to AD70). And then in the future, two temples will measure over another one thousand years of history.
What is the temple exactly? Let's think of two points: (1) The place of the presence of God, and (2) the place of the worship of God. The temple is a place where God comes to dwell on earth with His people. God prescribed congregational worship with the temple as the center. He regulated the worship with specific prescriptions in His Law. We can see that a large gap appears in the temple history after AD70 and before the tribulation period. Is there a temple in this period?
The temple today is the church, local and visible, just like Old Testament Israel. This temple replaced the one in Jerusalem. God ended OT temple worship when He rent the veil of Herod's temple in Jerusalem at the death of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus Christ prophesied (Matthew 24:1, 2) the end of that temple with the destruction by Titus in AD70. Paul tells the Corinthian church in 1 Corinthians 3:16, "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?" In that text we point blank find that the church, local, is the temple of God. It makes sense when you consider John 1:14. "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth." "Dwelt" here is literally, "tabernacled." The place of the presence of Christ is the new tabernacle or temple. The Lord Jesus Christ gathered an assembly of men around Him, dwelling among them. The church (local only) is the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:27). He dwelt in His temple with His physical presence and He gave His Spirit to that small congregation around Him in John 20:22. When He ascended to heaven, that small group was still indwelt by the Holy Spirit, Himself God, until the Holy Spirit was outpoured on all those who believed on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2).
Worship in the day in which we live is where both the Holy Spirit dwells (1 Cor. 3:16) and where Christ Himself dwells (Rev. 1:19-2:1). That is only the local church. Of course, every believer is also the temple of the Holy Ghost (1 Corinthians 6:19, 20), but corporately, that place is the church. God has prescribed the place of God's presence and the place of worship, His Temple, and it is the church, the one where God's people congregate.