Season: 10 Episode: 150
Listen to episode 146 in Spanish:
God with man is what makes Christianity unique to any other religion. To dwell among us is the heart of God. In the Old Testament, we see David’s desire to build a house for God. But even David understood that no house could hold the presence of God. When Jesus walked the earth, God took on flesh and dwelt among us. The angel proclaimed, “Immanuel, God with us.” It was a concept too great to fathom. Now that Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father, His desire is to still dwell among us, but the temple is not the same. Shanda talks about the temple of God in the Old Testament, New Testament, and today. Immanuel, God with us will mean so much more to you than ever before.
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I love to do Christmas theology around this time of year and what I’ve noticed is that almost every lesson or podcast can really be called Christmas theology because if it wasn’t for Christ, we couldn’t talk about any of these things, so basically all theology is Christmas theology. But one of the things I want to talk about this Christmas is the significance of the temple in the OT and how it changed in the NT and why that is something we should also focus on at Christmas.
Before we get into today’s episode, I want to remind you of the Baseline Apologetics: Laying a biblical foundation for truth and morality is available on my website: Shandafulbright.com. Go to the store and you can get the hard copy of the student workbook and do this study independently. The first 50 orders of the study I will sign and write in my favorite bible verse. I am also offering a LIVE zoom class where I teach you and we go through the material together. It is a 6 week study from January 18th – Feb 22nd. You’ll get hard copy of the workbook with this class too. All of the details are on the website.
Ok, so here is what we’re going to talk about today:
- The temple in the OT.
- How that changes in the NT.
- Why does it matter?
The temple in the OT.
Now keep in mind that this is going to be an overview. I can’t get into all the fine details of the temple in one podcast but I think this is going to be encouraging for you to see the significance of the temple and how it ties to the theme of Christmas.
Way back in Exodus, we see the Ark of the Covenant in Exodus when Moses was given the covenant between God and His people. It housed the Ten Commandments and the Hebrews had to carry the Ark with them wherever they went. It represented the presence of God. There was a mercy seat on the ark that symbolized the atonement (the covering for sin) that was a foreshadowing of what Christ would do for the sins of the world. But keep in mind that the Ark of the Covenant was a box that held the Ten Commandments and was what the Hebrew people associated as the presence of God going with them. And it was housed in the tent or tabernacle when they wandered in the desert.
Just think, they had to carry it and had specific instructions for how to carry it. One man named Uzziah reached out to grab the ark and he did not follow the instructions given by God and God struck him and he died. You can read about it in 2 Samuel 6:7. Everyone was terrified. But what you’ll notice here is that God has standards for the Ark of the Covenant and they were to be taken seriously.
There was no temple.
So when King David expressed a desire to build a temple for God, God told him no. David was a man of war. God told David his son Solomon would be the one to build the temple. And Solomon did.
The temple Solomon built was extraordinary and there is nothing like it today. Solomon enlisted skilled men who were gifted in their craft. 1 Kings 6:7 says this, “In building the temple, only blocks dressed at the quarry were used, and no hammer, chisel or any other iron tool was heard at the temple site while it was being built.” Everything was made off site and brought in so there was no noise of construction.
In verses 20-22 it says, “20 The inner sanctuary was twenty cubits long, twenty wide and twenty high. He overlaid the inside with pure gold, and he also overlaid the altar of cedar. 21 Solomon covered the inside of the temple with pure gold, and he extended gold chains across the front of the inner sanctuary, which was overlaid with gold. 22 So he overlaid the whole interior with gold. He also overlaid with gold the altar that belonged to the inner sanctuary.”
And as Solomon was building the temple, God promised him this:
“11 The word of the Lord came to Solomon: 12 ‘As for this temple you are building, if you follow my decrees, observe my laws and keep all my commands and obey them, I will fulfill through you the promise I gave to David your father. 13 And I will live among the Israelites and will not abandon my people Israel.’”
So you see here that the temple represents the presence of God and in reality, no temple, no earthly building could house the presence of God. But it showed an actual place where the people of God could go to worship.
What happened when Solomon finished the temple?
2 Chronicles 7:1-6 says this, “When Solomon finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple. 2 The priests could not enter the temple of the Lord because the glory of the Lord filled it. 3 When all the Israelites saw the fire coming down and the glory of the Lord above the temple, they knelt on the pavement with their faces to the ground, and they worshiped and gave thanks to the Lord, saying,
“He is good;
his love endures forever.”
4 Then the king and all the people offered sacrifices before the Lord. 5 And King Solomon offered a sacrifice of twenty-two thousand head of cattle and a hundred and twenty thousand sheep and goats. So the king and all the people dedicated the temple of God. 6 The priests took their positions, as did the Levites with the Lord’s musical instruments, which King David had made for praising the Lord and which were used when he gave thanks, saying, “His love endures forever.” Opposite the Levites, the priests blew their trumpets, and all the Israelites were standing.”
God showed He was there with the Israelites when He responded to the dedication of the temple in this way.
He affirmed that He would His presence would be there and He made Solomon this promise as well.
Solomon finished the temple in 966 BC. Flash forward to 586 BC and the temple is destroyed by the Babylonians because it was God’s way of judging His people for their idolatry. The second temple was not as luxurious as the first and God’s response to the second temple was not like the first.
It was built by Zerubbabel and some of the older men were disappointed in the lack of grandeur of the temple. It wasn’t like Solomon’s temple. But this would be the temple where Jesus would walk, and so it was more grand in that way.
Sacrifices for sins resumed once again for a time. Then there was silence for about 400 years before Christ’s birth, which is where we’re going to pick up next.
The temple in the NT.
In John 2, Jesus talks about this temple. Let’s look at verses 13-22. “13 The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. 15 And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. 16 And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
18 So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple,[c] and will you raise it up in three days?” 21 But he was speaking about the temple of his body. 22 When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.”
The money changers in the temple were exchanging foreign money for Jewish money so they could pay the temple tax.
The problem is they hiked up the price.
They extorted money. But how can Jesus say this is unacceptable? Who gives Him the authority to say they could not do this in the temple? They wanted a sign. Which, if you’re following the WIW series, we are going through the signs and discourses for Jesus that John writes to point to Him as God.
Jesus answers by saying the sign will be to destroy the temple and raise it up again. Of course they missed the point. And this temple was destroyed in 70AD, as Jesus prophesied, however, He was referring to Himself. Why did Jesus refer to Himself as the temple? John 1 sheds some light on that for us.
John says this in verses 14-18, “14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son[d] from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) 16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.[e] 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God,[f] who is at the Father’s side,[g] he has made him known.”
The word “dwelt” here means to pitch a tent.
Now, go back to what we discussed about the Ark of the Covenant, before Solomon built the temple, and you will see here the same sort of language. God dwelt among us through Christ. It was better than the Ark of the Covenant. God was among us, in the flesh. And John goes on to say that no one has seen God at any time. The Ark represented the presence of God, but no one could actually see God or be in His presence. Until now. In John 4, Jesus told the Samaritan woman that a time is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem would one worship but those who worshipped Him would worship in spirit and in truth.
What does that mean? It means no one would have to go to a physical local to worship God anymore now that Christ had come. God’s presence wound’t be isolated to a building. When Jesus drove out the money changers with whips and cords it is because Jews from all over would come to the temple in Jerusalem and worship. They had to pay the temple tax and their forgiven money would not be accepted. Jesus was telling the Samaritan woman that this time is over. Why? Because He’s here. He is the presence of God.
That is the entire point of John’s gospel – the Word made flesh and dwelt among us.
You can also say, “Immanuel, God with us” which is what we say at Christmas, but my goal is to get you to see that Immanuel, God with us has so much more depth than just a baby in a manger.
And when Christ died, the veil in the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. You see this in the gospels. What does that mean? The veil separated the Holy of Holies, where God’s presence dwelt on earth, and men could not enter. Only the high priest could enter and he would offer the sacrifice on the altar for the sins of the people. There’s an article from Got Questions you can read that goes into greater depth on this and I’ll leave the link in the show notes for you.
But Christ’s death gave us access to God ourselves. We no longer had to go to the temple and we no longer had to have a high priest offer sacrifices for our sins. Christ fulfilled the law and made a way for us to go to God ourselves because He is our high priest – the mediator between God and man.
Why does this matter?
It is central to our Christian faith. Christ is the reason we are reconciled to God. And the temple is not a physical location. We no longer have to travel to a building to be in the presence of God. We don’t have to go to a priest for him to offer sacrifices for our sins because we have direct access to God. But does that mean there is no longer a temple?
Paul says this in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, “19 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, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” Once you accept Christ as your savior, you become the temple of God where His presence dwells. Jesus told His disciples that it was imperative that He go away so the helper would come.
He said the Holy Spirit was with them but it would not be long before He was in them. This gives a whole new meaning to the presence of God dwelling with us. He now pitches His tent in the individual believer. We get to be taught by the Holy Spirit. We get to be led by the Holy Spirit who leads us into all truth and reminds us of the words of Christ. That means we are the temple of God.
When God said He would never leave us nor forsake us, this now has so much depth.
We are never alone. God sees everything under the sun, but He is a personal God who now dwells in every believer.
So that brings up an argument that people often bring up about attending church. Well, since
the church is not a building, that means I don’t have to go to church, right?
The concept of the temple and the church gathering together are not the same. The church is the body of Christ – a family unit, meant to come together and edify one another, lift each other up, and gather in worship. It is a command in the NT to not forsake this event.
Hebrews 10:23-25 says, “23 Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for the one who promised is faithful. 24 And let us think about ⌊how to stir one another up to love⌋ and good works, 25 not abandoning ⌊our meeting together⌋, as is the habit of some, but encouraging each other, and by so much more as you see the day drawing near.”
Harris, W. H., III, Ritzema, E., Brannan, R., Mangum, D., Dunham, J., Reimer, J. A., & Wierenga, M. (Eds.). (2012). The Lexham English Bible (Heb 10:23–25). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
As Christians, we have a social responsibility to the body of Christ.
Sure, you can worship independently, but what is the purpose of gathering together? To encourage one another and spur each other on to good works. It is a way to express your love to other believers and John tells us in his epistles (1, 2, and 3 John) that one way to show you love the Lord is your love for the family of believers.
One commentary says this, “Christian assemblies are intended to have a positive and helpful outcome, i.e. encouraging one another. The word used here (parakaleō) could equally be rendered ‘exhorting’. The basic idea is that Christians should strengthen and stimulate one another. There is no doubt that immeasurable influence for good can come from the powerful example of right-minded people in association with others. The New Testament lends no support to the idea of lone Christians. Close and regular fellowship with other believers is not just a nice idea, but an absolute necessity for the encouragement of Christian values.”
Guthrie, D. (1983). Hebrews: An Introduction and Commentary (Vol. 15, p. 218). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
So again, I want to say that being a temple of the Holy Spirit does not mean you can stay home and not be with the family of God. You should want to be with your brothers and sisters in Christ to encourage and be encouraged, especially in the world we live in.
As I said in the opening of the podcast, I love to talk Christmas theology around this time of year, but really – anything to do with Christ is a Christmas message. I hope this whole concept of you being the temple of God encourages you because of what Christ did on the cross. We are blessed to live in these last days because of the access we have to the Father and not only that, but because God chose us to dwell among and to take up residence in. What an amazing concept to focus on this time of year.
I have more episodes this month to point you toward Jesus, the reason for the season, and I also have a Christmas myths episode coming sup soon that I think we’re going to enjoy talking about together too – like Christmas being pagan, talking to kids about Santa, and all that good stuff.
Don’t forget about Baseline Apologetics, it might even make a great christmas gift for someone who wants to go deeper in their understanding of apologetics knowledge. If you have a pressing question or want to know about a topic, send me an email at email@example.com because we are gearing cup for all new episodes in 2024. I’ll catch you on the next one.