Vol. 6, No. 6
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The first two of Webster's definitions of a temple are:
a place regarded by the ancients as a dwelling place for a god or gods; hence, a building for the worship of a god or gods.
Any of three buildings for worshiping Jehovah, successively built in Jerusalem.
The first of the three buildings was erected by Solomon. It was beautiful, requiring 7 years in the construction, 966-959 B.C. (1 Kings 6:38). It was costly: Solomon "overlaid the whole house with gold" (1 Kings 6:22). On the day of dedication the house was "filled with a cloud" and "the glory of Yahweh filled the house of God" (2 Chronicles 5:13-14). The Lord said to Solomon: "I have consecrated this house which you have built by putting my name there forever, and my eyes and my heart will be there perpetually" (1 Kings 9:3).
But the Lord's promise to bless the temple "forever" and "perpetually" was not unconditional. If Solomon's people failed to keep God's commandments, "then [said the Lord] I will cut off Israel from the land which I have given to them, and the house which I have consecrated for my name," and "this house will become a heap of ruins" (1 Kings 9:6-8).
Sadly, the temple, that in 959 B.C. was dedicated, in 587 B.C. became "a heap of ruins": Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, had his soldiers to pillage and to burn Solomon's beautiful and costly temple (2 Chronicles 36:19; Jeremiah 52:13).
After God saw penitence in Israel, he allowed two kings, Cyrus and Darius, to help Zerubbabel in building Israel's second temple in 520-515 B.C. (Ezra 4:2; 5:2; 6:1-18).
The third of the three temples was actually a repair and improvement job initiated by King Herod, beginning in 18 B.C. In 27 A.D. the third temple's repair job had been going on "for 46 years" (John 2:20), and was completed in 64 A.D. During the years 27-30 A.D. Jesus taught in Herod's temple (Luke 21:37), calling the structure "my Father's house" (John 2:16). He cast out those buying and selling in the temple (Matthew 21:12), and he predicted its utter destruction (Matthew 24:2). In 70 A.D. General Titus had his Roman soldiers to demolish the temple. The last sacrifice was offered on July 16.
Though God had dwelt in three temples made with hands, namely: Solomon's (1 Kings 8:12-13; 2 Chronicles 6:2, 9), Zerubbabel's (Ezra 5:2; 6:3, 22), and Herod's (John 2:16), a radical change was made after "All authority in heaven and the earth" had been given to Jesus (Matthew 28:18). The temple built by Jesus, his church (Matthew 16:18), was not made with hands, (Acts 7: 48), but by the preaching of "the gospel" (Acts 2:37-41; 1 Peter 1:25).
Under the likeness of a temple made with hands, "Jesus Christ himself," though the builder, is "the cornerstone. By him all the building, having been joined together, develops into a sacred temple in the Lord" (Ephesians 2:20-21).
Still under the likeness of a temple made with hands, all Christians are "living stones," which are built into a "spiritual house" (1 Peter 2:5), "a sacred temple" (Ephesians 2:21), "the church of the living God" (1 Timothy 3:15). All Christians together "are the temple of the living God, as he said, 'I will dwell in them, and walk among them. I will be their God, and they will be my people. . . . Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you'" (2 Corinthians 6:16-17). Jesus carries the likeness of a temple made with hands on into heaven: "I will make him who overcomes a pillar in the temple of God" (Revelation 3:12).
Not only are all Christians, from the day of Pentecost, May 28, 30 A.D., to the end of the world, spiritually "living stones" (1 Peter 2:5) in the construction of Jesus' "sacred temple" (Ephesians 2:21), "the church" (1 Timothy 3:15), but also each Christian, in his own physical body, "is a temple" (1 Corinthians 6:19). Paul asks, "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit? He is in you. You have him from God, and you are not your own. You were bought with a price. Therefore, glorify God in your body and in your spirit, both of which are God's property" (1 Corinthians 6:18-20; Matthew 27:8-10; Acts 5:32).
Yes, the Holy Spirit is "in you" (1 Corinthians 6:19; John 14:16), and spiritually both God and Christ are also. Jesus promised, "If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him, and we will dwell with him" (John 14:23). If the Scripture had not said it, a Christian would not know that the Godhead (the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) are in him along with his own "inner person" (Ephesians 3:16; Romans 7:22), the "hidden person of the heart" (1 Peter 3:4). He knows that his "outer person is wearing out," while his "inner person is renewed every day" (2 Corinthians 4:16).
When you see a human being in front of you, if he is a Christian, by your eyes you cannot know that you are looking at a temple. All that you can see is the individual's "outer person" (2 Corinthians 4:16). But by divine revelation you know that, in God's sight, inside of the person's physical body, are four never dying beings: God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, and the individual's "inner person," his immortal soul (1 Peter 1:9; Revelation 6:9-10; 20:4). His soul is also called his spirit (Luke 8:55; 23:46; Acts 7:59; 1 Corinthians 5:5; Hebrews 12:23). "God's temple is sacred," and each individual Christian is a temple of God (1 Corinthians 3:17). You see a walking temple with four inhabitants!