Rev. Kuiper is pastor of Southeast Protestant Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
A temple is a place where God dwells. Idols such as Dagon, Moloch, and Diana also had their temples. Antichrist himself will sit in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God (II Thess. 2:4). But in Scripture we learn that the only God worthy of the name is the God who dwells in the temple, and that in a way that He is not present elsewhere. The word dwell is very rich; one of the Greek terms for temple has the basic meaning of dwelling, resting, or fellowshipping.
The temple idea has a history in the Bible, a history that continues today and shall continue world without end. First of all, the tabernacle made by Moses in the wilderness to divine specifications was really a portable temple (Ex. 25:9). The heart of the tabernacle was the small square room called the Most Holy Place, which contained the ark of the covenant. The cloud which went before the Israelites as they marched from Egypt to Canaan went into the Most Holy Place whenever Israel made camp. That cloud, the Shekinah, was the cloud of God’s glorious presence. God dwelled between the cherubim, above the mercy seat which covered the tables of the Law, all behind the veil. All these things were figures of the true (Heb. 9:24) and patterns of things in the heavens (Heb. 9:23).
Secondly, Solomon built the temple of the Lord in Mt. Zion in Jerusalem (I Kings 6), something that David desired to do but might not because he was a man of war (II Sam. 7). This temple was magnificent. Everything was covered with gold. It was seven years in building. The temple of Solomon was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar about 590 B.C., and the treasures of the temple were carried off to Babylon. About 520 B.C., under the leadership of Zerubbabel, the temple was rebuilt, God having put into the mind of King Cyrus that he should free the Jews and instruct them to return and rebuild the city and temple (Ezra 1). This temple was finished in 21 years, causing great joy among the people but weeping among the elderly, for it was not nearly so beautiful as Solomon’s (Ezra 3:11, 12). This temple contained no ark, and was later defiled with the idolatrous worship of Antiochus Epiphanes (Dan. 9:27;Matt. 24:15).
Herod the Great rebuilt the temple on a grander scale in 21 B.C. The project took 46 years. This temple was in use at the time of Jesus’ birth and earthly sojourn, and had its veil rent from top to bottom at the moment of Jesus’ death, which death opened the way into the presence of God for all those given to Christ for redemption (Matt. 27:51). Soon after, all legitimate use of the temple came to an end, and the building itself was destroyed when Jerusalem was destroyed by the Roman legions under Vespasian in A.D. 70. Jesus prophesied of this destruction of the temple in Matthew 24:1, 2.
The next step in the history of the temple is the fulfillment of all Old Testament types, figures, and ceremonies. After cleansing the temple the first time just after His baptism, Jesus said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19). The Jews murmured at this, John informs us, “But he spake of the temple of his body.” As we said, a temple is the place where God dwells. Through the wonder of the incarnation, God began to dwell in Man; Jesus Christ became Immanuel; human and divine are united inseparably forever. “For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Col. 2:9). “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
When Jesus raised up the temple of His body and ascended into heaven, He poured out the Holy Spirit which He had received as His Spirit (Acts 2:33). This Holy Spirit of Christ comes to dwell in every elect child of God at his regeneration (John 3:5-8). The indwelling of the Spirit makes of every believer a temple of God. “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” (I Cor. 6:16). After Paul admonishes the believer to flee fornication as a sin againstone’s own body, he writes, “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost that is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?” (I Cor. 6:19).
Old Testament tabernacle and temples. Christ, the temple of God. Believers as the temples of the Holy Spirit. One more step yet! The holy place made without hands is heaven itself (Heb. 9:24). Heaven is the tabernacle of God with men! Heaven is the covenant of grace in Jesus Christ brought to its perfect, everlasting form (Rev. 21:1-5). John saw no temple in his vision of heaven, “for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it” (Rev. 21:22). Our response to Christ’s promise to come quickly is “Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”