One of the truths that came clear to me while writing 500 Year Journey is that one of the most important symbols for Christ is the temple of God.
After Solomon built the first temple around 960 BC, God’s presence came down to dwell in the temple, specifically in the inner sanctuary, the holy of holies. When Solomon dedicated the temple on the first day of the seventh month of the Hebrew calendar (Ethanim 1), he prayed:
“The LORD said He would dwell in the dark cloud.
I have surely built You an exalted house,
And a place for You to dwell in forever.” (I Kings 8:12-13)
He goes on to pray so much more, but the gist of the prayer is that God’s presence would come down to dwell in the temple of God so as to be a light to the world, and whenever any calamity or judgment came, their prayers should be directed to God who sat on the throne of the Ark of the Covenant in the holy of holies. The ark was God’s throne and the temple was the physical place on earth where God dwelt.
However, the temple built by King Solomon was torn down by Nebuchadnezzar in 587 BC, and a second temple wasn’t completed until about 517 BC. Then, near the time of Jesus, that second temple was completely refurbished by King Herod around 19 BC. It may have even been more spectacular than the one built by Solomon. Chip and Joanna Gaines would be proud.
And yet, even though the temple built by Herod was amazing, it also became the focus of religious corruption, and not just by Herod. Remember when Jesus overturned the tables in the temple? Instead of being a place of holiness, repentance, forgiveness, and petitioning God for grace to be a light to the world, it had become a means of gaining wealth by taking advantage of the people’s need to make sacrifices. He was furious and “When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers’ money and overturned the tables. And He said to those who sold doves, “Take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!” (John 2:15-16)
The True Temple
To understand why Jesus had the authority to overturn the tables and to rebuke the religious leaders, here is an excerpt from my book:
“After he tosses out the moneychangers in the temple court in Jerusalem, some Jews ask him, “What sign do You show to us, since You do these things?” (John 2:18). Jesus answers:
“Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” Then the Jews said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?” But He was speaking of the temple of His body.” (vv. 19–21)
There it is: Christ refers to himself as the temple, therefore the temple points us to the Incarnation. The temple and all of its features symbolize the meaning of Christ, and at the heart of the temple, the holy of holies, is the presence of God on earth. God dwelt in the temple; likewise God dwelt within the body of Christ. Jesus was 100 percent man; he was also 100 percent God. Two distinct natures co-existing in the same Person.
The prophet Zechariah speaks of the return of the Jews from the Babylonian exile and the rebuilding of the temple:
“Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion! For behold, I am coming and I will dwell in your midst,” says the Lord. “Many nations shall be joined to the Lord in that day, and they shall become My people. And I will dwell in your midst. Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent Me to you.” (Zechariah 2:10–11)
Zechariah declares that the presence of God would dwell in the midst of the Israelites when the temple was completed, but his words are also a prophetic utterance that describes the future Incarnation: God would dwell with us—all humanity—at the birth of Christ.” (500 Year Journey, 125-126)
A Light to the World
Jesus Christ is the light to the world. The perfect light. The temple was magnificent, and it was designed to direct our attention toward God, but it was only meant to be temporary until Christ came. God gave his law to the Israelites so that they would bring light to the fallen world, but they rebelled and God keeps his promises of blessing and of judgment. God was patient with his people, but they hardened their hearts to the point that the punishment had to be severe. The first time God poured forth his wrath is when Solomon’s temple was destroyed by Babylon. It was later rebuilt, but then after the Messiah came they continued to harden their hearts–even to denying the arrival and ministry of their very own savior–and the destruction of Herod’s temple by Rome was a final sign of God’s judgment.
However, as horrific as those losses were, we must not forget that those temples were meant to point us to Christ, the Messiah, the redeemer of the world–and he is alive and well in the presence of the Father, interceding for us. Yes, Jesus will return someday to make all things right, and yes, even though he did punish his people the Jews, he has not forsaken them (Romans 9-11). Gentiles have been gathered under his wings, but only to show that God’s mercy and grace is extended to all, Jew and Gentile.
May you find grace in his presence.
Eighth Day Books
My book, 500 Year Journey, is available now at my website, www.500yearjourney.com, where you may pre-order a signed copy and get free shipping if you register.
However, if you choose to wait until the book officially is released on Tuesday, September 12, let me recommend pre-ordering from Eighth Day Books here in Wichita, KS. I strongly support local bookstores and I believe this is one of the best! I found many great historical and biblical resources here that I used during my research for my book, and you can look through their extensive catalog for many rare and scholarly resources yourself and get anything shipped right to you. Please check them out!
Otherwise, you can pre-order on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Book Shop, Sandman Books, Walmart, and Books-A-Million, If you are in the UK you can order from Eden. It would also be cool if you were to ask your favorite local bookstore to make copies available. Let them know soon! The release date is only a month away.
I also have copies available for GROUP STUDIES at churches or community groups, but please contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll work out the cost and details together. Thank you!
If you would like to hear my interview with Calvary Chapel pastor Nick Cady, please click here.