Saturday, 3 September 2011

Where God dwells

It's interesting to think of Jesus and the temple in the timeline of the gospels...

  • At the beginning, the temple was the centre of Israel's worship. The angel Gabriel came to the priest serving in the temple, to announce the coming of the Messiah's forerunner.
  • Jesus' parents bring him to the temple to present him, in obedience to the law.
  • At age 12, Jesus is found in the temple, feeding on God's word being taught there.
  • At the beginning of his ministry, Jesus came to the temple to purge it of uncleanness. As a baby he was brought because of the Old Testament laws of uncleanness - and he had come vicariously to take that uncleanness on himself - as a man, he came to purge the temple. Roles were reversed.
  • He repeated this cleansing again at the final week of his ministry; which was in itself an anticipation of its final destruction.
  • In that week too (and earlier, with the Samaritan woman), he announced plainly the end of the temple - the true worshippers in the coming age would worship in every place, by the Spirit and Truth - which ultimately means (John 14:6), by himself.
  • On the cross, as Jesus' body was put to death, the curtain in the temple was ripped from top to bottom.
  • After his resurrection, the temple was a place where Christ was preached, and the end of the old Jewish order announced.
  • In AD70, as Jesus had said, the final destruction came upon the Jewish theocracy, and the temple was destroyed.
What is the overall pattern here? It's clearly a transfer. The temple, so central to Israel's life,faded in glory as the Morning Star rose to utterly eclipse it - not to "replace" it, but to fulfil the promise it had always contained of his coming. The anticipation moves off the stage, forever, when the ultimate reality has come.

I was talking with a friend last week who believes that the temple is to be rebuilt - so that it can be destroyed again. As a matter of fact, the prophecies which such friends point to were written before the temple was rebuilt before the coming of Christ, and hence are already fulfilled. The New Testament writers never prophesied a further rebuilding, and that idea is an arbitrary use of Scripture. But from a theological point of view, this whole idea is missing the point. The temple is, in terms of redemption, old hat; eclipsed, out-moded, superceded. There can no more be another temple of any theological interest than there can be another ark or captivity in Babylon. The true temple is the body of Christ, which was destroyed on the cross and resurrected - and the body of Christ on earth now is his people, who take up the cross to follow him, in anticipation of rising with him after they have died with him. We do not look today for politics and buildings, but for the indwelling glory of Christ amongst us.

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