19 “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.” (Ephesians 2:19–21 (ESV)
The subject of a temple is an interesting one. This is true, not only biblically but also historically. A temple is a shrine, a sanctuary, and a place of worship. In other words, it is a holy place.
In the ancient world, some of the earliest structures built by man were temples or shrines where he could worship his god in his ‘house’ (See K. M. Kenyon, Archaeology in the Holy Land4 pp. 24, 33, for the Mesolithic and Neolithic shrines at Jericho).
For example, the Tower of Babel was the first structure mentioned in the Bible implying the existence of a temple (Genesis 11:1-4). However, what may seem to have been a place where man might meet God, it symbolized the self-confidence of man attempting to climb up to heaven. For such pride, the temple Tower of Babel was doomed (Genesis 11:5-9).
In ancient Mesopotamia, each city had a temple dedicated to its patron deity. The god was looked upon as the owner of the land. If the land was not blessed by him it would be unproductive. This resulted in poor revenues for his temple. The local king, or ruler, acted as steward for the god. It is possible that Abraham, before God called him out of Ur of the Chaldeans, was a worshiper in, and at, these pagan temples (Genesis 11:27-12:3; Joshua 24:1-5).
There was no purpose in the semi-nomadic Patriarchs, like Abraham, Lot, Isaac and Jacob to build one particular shrine for Yahweh. He revealed himself as and where He pleased. Such occasions were sometimes the scenes of a sacrificial offering (Genesis 8:20; 12:1-8; 13; 1-18; 28:18-22; Job 1:1-5).
After Israel became a nation, a central sanctuary shrine became a necessity. It would be a gathering-point for all the people, a symbol of their unity in the worship of the One, True God. This need was initially provided by the Tabernacle during the wilderness wanderings of 40 years during the trek through the wilderness (Exodus 25-30; 35-40; Leviticus 1-7; Numbers 7-9). The Tabernacle was also a recognized holy place during the period of the judges (e.g. Shechem, Jos. 8:30ff. 24:1ff. Shiloh, 1 Sam. 1:1-3).
The lack of a permanent Temple of Yahweh appeared necessary when David had consolidated his power and built a permanent palace for himself. The king said, ‘I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells in a tent’ (2 Sam. 7:1-2). However, God did not give David the responsibility, or privilege, to build the Temple because he was stained with the blood of his enemies. David did collect materials, gathered treasure and bought the site (1 Chronicles 22:1-8, 3; 2 Sam. 24:18–25). It was David’s son, Solomon, who began the actual construction in his 4th year as King of Israel, and the Temple was completed 7 years later (1 Kings 6:37–38).
How does this information about the Old Testament Jewish Temple apply to believers in Christ today? Each new believer in Christ is a new stone in Christ’s temple, the church. The Temple is now Christ’s body of believers. Christ’s building of his church will not be complete until every person who will believe in him does believer in Him (2 Pet. 3:9).
I Peter 2:4-5 says, “4As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
More to come. Have a blessed day.
Soli deo Gloria!