The temple was an enduring representation of the fact that the Lord, as the God of His people, will never leave them. Today, Barry Cooper points us to a greater temple that is more enduring still.
The Tabernacle was the elaborate tent in which God could dwell among his people, as they travelled towards Canaan, the Promised Land.
But later, once God’s people reached Canaan, a permanent version of the Tabernacle was built: the Temple.
The greatest blessing of God’s covenant with Abraham and his descendants is the reality that God would be their God, and they would be His people. To put it another way, and this is still true for us: more than any other blessing, by far the greatest blessing God gives us is Himself. His presence. The fact that He looks at us with his everlasting love and says, “I will never leave you.”
The Temple was to be an enduring representation of the fact that God really was their God, and they really were His people. As they worshiped in the Temple courts, the Israelites were surrounded by very tangible, very physical signs that they truly were His people, worshiping – as it were – in His house. “We have thought on your steadfast love, O God, in the midst of your temple” (Psalm 48).
First Kings chapter 6 verse 1 says that the construction of the temple began on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem “in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel”, 480 years after the people of Israel were delivered by God from their slavery in Egypt. So that means construction began in the spring of 967 or 966 BC. It was completed seven years later.
The temple itself, not including the surrounding chambers on three sides, was 90 feet long, 30 feet wide, and 45 feet high. This was known as the Holy Place. It contained, as with the tabernacle, a golden altar of incense, golden lampstands, and a golden table for the bread of the Presence.
And again as with the tabernacle, there was a smaller room within the Holy Place called the Most Holy Place. It was separated off from the Holy Place by two towering wooden doors, ornate and overlaid with gold. The room was twice the size of the equivalent room in the tabernacle, but as before, a perfect cube: 30 feet by 30 feet by 30 feet.
And inside the Most Holy Place was the ark of the covenant, flanked by two enormous golden cherubim, each one 15 feet tall with 15 foot wingspans.
The temple was one of God’s covenant promises to King David. David had wanted to build a house for God, but God told David that He, the LORD would make the Temple. He tells David, “When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son.”
That proved to be doubly true: David’s son Solomon built a temple, as we’ve seen; but also, there would be another Son of David, and indeed Son of God, who would “build a house” for the LORD, and rule forever.
In John chapter 2, as He stands in the temple, Jesus says, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” In case the point is lost on us, John comments that the temple Jesus was speaking about is “the temple of his body.”
Christ’s body, then, is the ultimate “house of the LORD” in which God dwells. It is the place to which all those who seek God must finally come.
Solomon’s temple, as majestic as it must have been, was only a shadow of the ultimate Temple. And like every shadow must, it passed away – being destroyed in 586 BC. It was eventually replaced with a Second Temple, but that too was destroyed, in 70AD.
The ultimate Temple – Jesus Christ – was also destroyed. But unlike the others, this Temple was then resurrected. And so, just as Jesus had said, THIS Temple was raised three days later, imperishable and eternal.
In the book of Revelation, we see a vision of the new Jerusalem. Unlike the old Jerusalem, this one has no temple made of bricks or mortar. Why? Because, says the Apostle John, “its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.”
God’s promise to Abraham was that he would make his dwelling among his people and walk among them, that He would be their God, that they would be His people. And so it was that the ultimate Temple, God the Son, made his dwelling among His people, walked among them, and gave Himself for them so that He could look into their eyes in the new Jerusalem, and say: “I will never leave you.”