“For every house is builded by some (man); but he that built all things is God.” Hebrews 3:4
It is important for the proper understanding of the presence of the cherubim in the most holy place, to notice carefully that there is a most intimate relationship between the progressive historical revelation of God’s covenant promise and the various stages through which the temple-building passed. The bottom line is that God himself will make a house for David in David’s royal Son (II Samuel 7:8-11).
To facilitate a rather clear overview of this temple-building by the great temple-Builder, God in Christ, we must notice that neither the typical tabernacle nor the later temple of Solomon were per se fit abodes, dwelling-places, of God in the Spirit (Ephesians 2:19-22). We read in Hebrews 3:4 “For every house is builded of some man, but he that built all things is God.” It is also instructive to read: “And Moses verily was faithful in all his house, as a servant, for a testimony of those which were to be spoken after; But Christ as a son over his own house (we underscore); whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence . . .” (Hebrews 3:5, 6).
There are many passages in Scripture which teach that God is the Builder of the temple and of the holy city. This was explicitly stated by the prophet Nathan to David. After denying David the privilege and right to build the temple, a house for the Lord, the Lord tells David that He will build a house for David; yes, He will build it out of David’s Seed; He will give him a Son in that temple and on the throne (II Samuel 7:11-12, 27-29; I Kings 11:38). In the New Testament, Christ announces Himself to be the one Who will build the temple. In fact, just this temple building is his proper and convincing credential that he has authority in the temple. He is the Lord of the temple (John 20:14-25). This lesson was never forgotten by the hateful and unbelieving Jewish adversaries (Matthew 26:31, 27:40). Furthermore, the very apostles of Christ never understood that Jesus was the divine master-builder of the spiritual temple until after his resurrection (John 2:22). It was only then that they believed that word of Jesus and believed all the Scriptures (John 2:21, 22). Until this point they were slow of heart to believe that the Christ must suffer all the hellish agonies on the cross and thus enter into his glory (Luke 24:25-27, 44-45)!
We do well to allow these Scriptures to sink deep into our hearts. Hence, we should notice that the true temple was not made by the hands of men, but by the Christ of God in his death and resurrection. And into this temple, the church of the living God, both the elect Jews and elect Gentiles enter. Fact is that they constitute the living stones, and are thus the very fabric, the material most unfit, which is made into stones fashioned by God’s grace. These stones are gathered by the Word and Spirit from those who are far and those who are near, to be the habitation of God in the Spirit (Ephesians 2:22).
This temple David nor Solomon could ever build!
Small wonder that at the dedication of the temple the sublime words were uttered by Solomon, “LORD God of Israel, there is no God like thee in the heaven above, or on the earth beneath, who keepest covenant and mercy with thy servants what walk before thee with all their heart . . . . and now, O God of Israel, let thy word, I pray thee be verified, which thou. speakest unto thy servant David, my father (Confer II Samuel 7:10-17). “But will God indeed dwell on the earth: behold, the heavens and the heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house that I have builded” (Acts 7:47).
Yes, this temple which God will build is the hope of heaven and of earth—through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ!
Listen to the exalted words of the prophet Isaiah, “howbeit the Most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands, as saith the prophet” (Acts 17:33; Isaiah 66:1). It was because Stephen proved from the Scriptures that the Old Testament law and shadows must give way for the reality, the better and greater temple, encompassing both heaven and earth, that he is stoned to death!
The Scriptures everywhere speak of the heaven and of the earth. Heaven must receive the Christ until: the times of the restitution of all things, as spoken of by all the holy prophets, since the world began (Acts 3:21). This is true of all the Scriptures as spoken by “all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken . . .” (Acts 3:24).
These are the words of the Scriptures which must guide our thinking and our attempts at formulating the Scriptural data concerning the historical development of God’s true temple!
Thus we begin to see that Solomon mall his glory is less than the Christ to come. This one will not merely be a son out of David’s loins by a Bathsheba, who had been the wife of Uriah (Matthew 1:6) but this one is the Son born from a virgin, whose name is Immanuel, God with us (Matthew 1:21-23). He is both David’s son and Lord (Psalm 110:1; Matthew 22:41-45). The name “Lord” here implies that he is the Adonai: God, very God of God.
This all teaches us that there is need to study the progressive fading away of the shadows and types as embodied in the Old Testament tabernacle till the time that it is removed .forever by the Lord. The writer to the Hebrews speaks of this old covenant as “it waxes old, decayed, and ready to vanish away” (Heb. 8:13). This vanishing away is spoken of by the Holy Spirit very clearly in both the prophecy of Jeremiah and that of Isaiah and Ezekiel (Jeremiah 31:31, 7:11; Isaiah 56: 17; Ezekiel 40:27; compare also Haggai 2:6, 7). These are simply some very clear texts which teach very clearly that the old temple will be destroyed to bring in the true and eternal tabernacle of God with men (Revelation 21:3). Here we read the beautiful words, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them and be their God.”
It is very clear in all the Scriptures that the historical development of the building of God’s temple is purely a wonderwork of God’s saving grace in Jesus Christ. It is what God has wrought, and He alone!
We should also notice particularly that the transition from the Old Testament temple to the New Testament temple, builded by Christ, requires really centuries; it was from the time of the Babylonian captivity till the death and resurrection of Christ. There was a breaking down of the Old Testament temple of Solomon which caused Israel to pine in Babylon. Here Israel learned to sing and utter the words of the Lamentation of Jeremiah, the prophet: “How doth the city sit solitary, that was full of people! how is she become a widow! she that was great among the nations, and princess among the provinces, how is she become tributary! . . . . Judah is gone into captivity because of affliction, and because of great servitude: she dwelleth among the heathen, she findeth no rest: all her persecutors overtook her between the straits. The ways of Zion do mourn, because none come to the solemn feasts: all her gates are desolate: her priests sigh, her virgins are afflicted, and she is in bitterness . . . the LORD hath afflicted her for the multitude of her transgressions: her children are gone into captivity before the enemy! (Lamentations 1:1-5)
This is the painful experience of the remnant according to election in Babylon. Here they sing and sigh, “How shall we sing the LORD’s song in a strange land of strangers. If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy” (Psalm 137:5, 6).
Now it is exactly in this darkest hour of Israel for the people of God, that the prophetic horizons lift, and that we begin to see more and more of the sure prophetic word which shines as a light in a dark place, until the day dawn and the day-star arises in the hearts of God’s people (II Peter 1:19). However, in this prophetic word it becomes abundantly clear that the clock of God is neither turned back, nor does the clock of God stop for seventy years. After Israel has come forth from the refining experience of captivity, they will go forward into the hope of the heavenly temple. A greater and better temple is in the making according to God’s sure and everlasting promise to Abraham and to his seed. This does not appear to be the case when we view the building of the temple of Zerubbabel in the time of Ezra the prophet.
Truly, there was great sadness in the heart of those saints in Israel who had seen the beauty and splendor of Solomon’s temple, Do we not read “but many of the priests and Levites and chief of the fathers, who were ancient men, that had seen the first house, when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, wept with a loud voice; and many shouted aloud for joy . . .” (Ezra 3:12, 13). There was room for weeping when things were viewed as to outward appearance. It looked as if they had not at all recovered from the ignominy of their Babylonian captivity. Here was a small remnant returning, and the house which they were building truly looked, as it were, the “little things that should be despised’ (Haggai 2:2-9). For the glory of the latter house: shall be greater than the former, saith Jehovah!
It is all the wonder of grace!
When we keep these great and basic Scriptural teachings in mind, we will also be able to understand that it required centuries to make this transition from .the typical temple to the rea1 and true temple. This transition is fully fulfilled in the fullness of time in Christ’s death and resurrection. We do well to take special notice of the Biblical teaching of the prophetic writings. This is especially true in our times when the winds of the error of dispensationalism and of a social gospel blow upon the church, seeking to remove us from our own steadfastness. We must stand immovable in the faith that we are the New Testament church, in which both Jew and Greek have a place, a dwelling-place of God in the Spirit (Galatians 3:26-29; Ephesians 2:19-22).
We shall, therefore, need to pursue this matter further in the next chapter.