This session was taught at the Christ Church Manchester School of Theology on Saturday 6th June 2020. The CCM School of Theology was set up to serve local churches in Manchester and beyond.
Topic: Temple Theology
In this session, we look at Temple Theology
Speaker: Richard Thomas
Richard Leads the team at Hope Church Worcester and also heads up the Worcester School of Theology
The Theology of Mission
A “Temple” is where God lives. It was always God’s plan to live amongst His people.
• Creation as a temple – the place God interacted with humanity. Humanity is God breathed, made in the image of God. (Gen 1 v 26 -28 + 2 v 7)
• Mankind to serve in the garden, like priests. “To till it” (abad), “keep it” (samar) – words used of priests in the temple (Num 3 v 7- 8, 8 v 26, 18 v 5-6).
• God met with man and woman, (3 v 8), as in the tabernacle, (Lev 26 v 12, 2 Sam 7 v 6-7).
• It was God’s plan for this “temple” to fill the earth, (1 v 28).
• The fall resulted in an ejection from God’s presence.
• Cherubim guarded against re-entry to the tree of life (Gen 3 v 24)
• Humanity now needed to “call upon the name of the Lord” 4 v 26 – they were distant.
• Bush encounter with the presence of God – “holy ground”. Ex 3 v 5
• Moses was promised that the presence of God would go with him. The sign of that would be that “he and the people would worship on this mountain Exodus 3 v 12
• At Sinai they corporately experienced the presence of God
• After national sin would God’s presence would continue with them? See Exodus 33 esp’ v 14.
• Moses prayed and God promised, “my presence will go with you”
• Manifested in the pillar of fire and smoke, provision was made via the tabernacle and sacrifices for people to be able to function with God in the midst…
• Amongst them but “holy”, separate, clean.
• The tent of Meeting or Tabernacle was central. The word means “The place of divine dwelling”.
• It taught them about the presence of God and sometimes was manifestly filled with Him.
“The cloud entered the tent of meeting and the glory of the lord filled the tent. Moses could not enter, because the cloud had settled upon it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle” Exodus 40 v 34 – 35.
• There was an “exact pattern” (Ex 25 v 8-9) – a huge thing for a holy God to live among an imperfect people.
• The tabernacle had zones of increasing holiness leading to “the holy of holies”
• This was separated from the rest of the tent by a think curtain.
It was embroidered with cherubim, an echo of the Garden of Eden and the cherubim guarding against re-entry. (Exodus 26 v 31 and 36 v 35,cf Gen 3 v 24)
• Within the tabernacle was the ark of God, overarched by 2 carved winged cherubim – the mercy seat – the place God promised to dwell.
• Although God was amongst them people cannot get too close! – “don’t touch”, “don’t go near” Approach was only through priestly sacrifice.
DAY OF ATONEMENT
• The high priest alone was permitted to enter the holy of holies just once each year on the Day of Atonement.
• Atonement means “to make one”.
• Atonement was symbolised by the high priest making sacrifice for his own sins then the people’s, before entry.
• It is the presence of God which makes anything – ground or tent – holy.
• The aim of all the regulations and ceremonies was that “I will walk among you and be your God” (Lev26 v 12)
LOSING THE PRESENCE – 1 Sam 4 – 6
• The ark, which symbolised God’s presence, was treated as a “lucky charm”, and guarantee of military victory. BUT the presence of God cannot be manipulated!
• Brought onto the battle field it was lost to the Philistines.
• The wife of Phineas the priest was told this news, she gave birth prematurely. As she was dying she named her son, “Ichabod” – “no glory”. (1 Sam 4 v21)
• This story continues with the ark in the temple of Dagon and that idol being found face down before the ark of God!
• The Philistines eventually return it to the Israelites. – God’s presence is awesome, terrible, holy, glorious and wonderful!
• Brought the ark to his new capital Jerusalem. This was not without cost to Uzzah! (See 1 Chron 13 and 15).
• The return was finally brought about, carried reverently and with appropriate sacrifices and worship.
• Psalms 46 v 1. “God is a present help in trouble”, always with the. V 4, “there is a river that makes glad the holy place”, n.b. Jerusalem has no river, he speaks of the presence of God.
• David planned a huge worship programme in honour of the presence of God and future temple, including some 4,000 singers and musicians and people to “prophesy accompanied by harps” (1Chron 25 v 1 – 31, 23 v 3 – 4)
SOLOMON’S TEMPLE. – 2 Chronicles Ch 5 – 7.
• The ark enters the temple on completion, with appropriate worship.
“He is good, his love endures forever. Then the temple of the LORD was filled with a cloud, and the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled the temple” 2 Chron’ 5 v 13 – 14.
• After a dedicatory prayer, fire fell, from heaven onto the sacrifices and the glory of God again filled the temple.
• The curtain again echoes Eden. 2 Chron 3 v 14
“When they saw the fire… and the glory of the LORD… they knelt on the pavement with their faces to the ground, and they worshipped and gave thanks” 2 Chron 7 v 1 -3.
• The “glory” of God, (Hebrew kavod, or weight), is the manifest presence of God.
EZEKIEL AND THE NEW TEMPLE PROMISES.
• Exiled because of idolatry, including sun worship within the temple, Ezekiel has a vision of the glory of God leaving the temple – Ezekiel Ch 10.
Israel has “profaned” the temple – the opposite of “make holy” – and so God leaves. In 586 BC the temple is then destroyed.
• Ezekiel Ch 40 – 48 Ezekiel has a vision of a new temple and the glory of God amongst his people again.
The language echoes Eden, with rivers, symbolic of the presence of God.
As the river flows the dead land becomes healed and abundant – “where the river flows everything will live” (Ezekiel 47 v 9)
• This new temple surpasses the old one – “put my sanctuary among them forever. My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God and they will be my people. Then the nations will know …” Ezl 37 v27
ISAIAH also saw this new temple prophetically –an exalted temple with all nations streaming to it. (Isa 2 v 1-5, See also Micah 4 v 1 – 2)
Quoted by Stephen in Acts 7 v 48 – 50, Isaiah acknowledges that God can never be contained in a temple made by human hands. (Isa 66 v 1 – 2)
• Throughout Scripture the promise is made that the temple, and God’s glory and praise, would be throughout the whole earth. – “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Habbukuk 2 v 14, also Num 14 v 21, Psalm 67)
THE RETURN AND SECOND TEMPLE
• On return from exile the temple was rebuilt – but those who saw the first one wept, in the midst of the celebrations. See Ezra 3 v 11 – 12.
• Although wonderful there is no record of God ever manifesting his presence in the new temple….
• The return of the exiles and the new temple, do not fully reflect the majesty of the prophetic visions of Ezekiel and Isaiah.
JESUS GOD WITH US
“They will call his name Emmanuel, “God with us” Matthew 1 v 23. In his lifetime Jesus WAS the temple – the presence of God, in flesh, on earth.
“The word became flesh and dwelt among us” John 1 v 14. (Literally “tabernacled” among us), and we have seen “his glory” – note the temple language.
Jesus himself makes claims implying he saw himself as the temple –
• “Destroy this temple and I will raise it in 3 days”, (John 2 v 19)
• “God now seeks a people who will worship him” – In the temple? – No, “in spirit and truth”. (John 4 v 23, in context of a discussion about temple worship)
• Of the existing temple?, “not one stone will be left on another” (Matt 24 v 2, Mk 13 v 2, Lk 21 v 6)
• He claimed the ability to forgive sins – rather than going to the temple and making sacrifices via a priest … Undermining the whole temple system. (Mark 2 v 7)
• John is amazed that they “saw his glory” and even “touched him”. (John 1 v 14 / 1 Jn 1 v 1)
• Jesus himself promised to send the Spirit, John 14 – 15, His presence with them.
• In John 20 v 19 – 23 he re-enacts creation by “breathing on them” – as in Genesis 2 v7, “receive the Holy Spirit”.
• A new humanity / tribe of people are being formed – to carry his presence / be his temple.
• The church is born, filled with the Spirit of God – for anyone, from any nation; the church is the new home for the Spirit of God. Acts Ch 2.
• Rather than his presence falling and filling a building, he “pours out his Spirit on all flesh” (Acts 2 v 17)
• “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?” 1Corinthians 6 v 19 – 20. – (Individually)
• “For we are the temple of the living God” 1 Corinthians 6 v 16 – (Corporately)
• “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives among you?” 1 Cor 3 v 16 (Corporate)
• “What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God…. Therefore come out and be separate…” 2 Cor 6 v 16 – 17.
• “You are being built into a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” 1Peter 2 v 5
• Ephesians 2 v 19 – 22 The church is pictured here, as a people, but also a temple; –
Paul invents a compound word for what God is doing “gathering, joining and up- building” us into “a dwelling in which God lives by his spirit”
• Gods’ dwelling is now directly and fully with his people – there is therefore no longerany need for a temple, “Look God’s dwelling place is now among the people!” v 3
• “The old order has passed away”, meaning there is no longer death, mourning or crying or pain …. all disorder is gone. V4
• Creation is so full of the presence of God that there is no physical temple. V22
• All nations are represented, fully displaying his multicoloured grace. V 24
• The glory and honour of the nations will be brought into it – ethnicity continues to the glory of God. V 26
• As in Eden – the new creation “temple” is described in terms of the river of life with trees for healing of the nations. V 1-5
• Worship – When we gather, we gather into the presence of God, – a sense of wonder and determination! – Be fascinated by God’s presence, expect, experience, enjoy, seek!
“ One thing I desire… to dwell in the house of the LORD… to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD”(Psalm 27 v 4)
• Dignity / Identity – This is who we are! What we were created for! – don’t drift in identity
• Confidence – We, His Church, gathered or scattered, are where people can meet God!
“Christians today are not generally better looking, funnier, better dressed, or smarter than non-Christian s. God’s presence and God’s presence alone distinguishes us” (Storylines p72. Croft and Pivlachi)
• Expectation – His presence is with us, there is power in that presence!
• Diversity – his Spirit is on, and in, all flesh, he is gathering a spectacular International People!
• Holiness – don’t you know you are a temple?!
• Apostolic Mission – This is the Biblical reason to plant churches everywhere – expressions of his presence, demonstrated by a spirit filled community. Our vision is not denominational up-building but to see expressions of temple throughout the earth, in expectation that one day the earth will be filled with his glory!
• Destiny. “I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world” John 17 v 24.