The Temple of Israel

In ancient times, temples existed for only one primary purpose, and that was to consecrate and offer to the gods, holy food. The temple of the Hebrews was no different from that of the pagans in this respect. The history of how the temple of the House of Israel came to be is this:

Before they had a chance to be formed into tribes, the 12 sons of Israel (Jacob) went to Egypt (for food). Here they stayed and later fell into the captivity of Pharaoh. Rescued from this captivity several hundred years later by Moses, the children of Israel were finally on the threshold of coming into the tribal reality that had been promised to them centuries before.

Leading the Israelites to a sacred mountain in the desert, Moses procurred two stone tablets from God on which were written ten commandments. These divine directives were to be the first of many that God would decree, but because of the people's fear, the others were deferred until the coming of Christ.

Moses was ordered by God to build an Ark (the Ark of the Covenant) and to deposit into that ark the two stone tablets, and to house this holy covenant inside a tent, called the Tent of the Testimony (because of the presence of the ten commandments within it). This tent was the Hebrew place of worship throughout their 40-year desert travels. At this time, there was no Hebrew temple.

Finally reaching the Jordan River, Moses divided the land of Palestine (the Promised Land to which he had led them), into 12 portions, each tribe being given a share of the country. The tribe of Judah (the Jews) received the land within which lay the city of Jerusalem.

The tribe of Ephraim, considered at that time (because of their scripture) the pre-eminent tribe, was given a territory within which lay the city of Shiloh. Because Ephraim was the pre-eminent tribe, Shiloh was chosen as the location for the first Hebrew temple, built to replace (make permanent) the Tent of the Testimony, and to house the Ark of the Covenant.

Shiloh became the center of Hebrew worship, and all the tribes made their gatherings in that city for their religious ceremonies. Neither the Jews nor their city of Jerusalem were involved in this early construction because their religious significance had not yet been established.

Because of the wickedness of the Israelites in Shiloh (see the Book of 1 Samuel), God later moved the Temple out of Ephraim and into Jerusalem when He chose David to be the new king of the Israelites.

By moving the Temple from Shiloh to Jerusalem, God showed the Israelites that He had the power to move the city of God and the people of Israel wherever He wanted them to go, whether it was out of Egypt, across Sinai, out of Shiloh, out of Jerusalem, or into or out of Babylon. And to Give them any king He chose.

God also showed them that He had the power to change the tenants in charge, replacing Ephraim with Judah, and later replacing Judah with the disciples of Christ.

He moved the temple and its management from one tribe to another because so many of the Hebrew leaders were obsessed with the physical aspects of their religion and had abandoned their spiritual responsibilites of justice, compassion and good faith.

Jesus was condemned to death because he dared to say a word against the Jewish temple, and to equate himself with it. This temple building had become the Jewish god. A collection of stones in Palestine. Jesus affirmed the earlier warnings of the Old Testament prophets that God was not interested in these materialistic manifestations of worship:

"I hate and despise your feasts, I take no pleasure in your solemn festivals...Let me have no more of the din of your chanting, no more of your strumming on harps. But let justice flow like water, and integrity like an unfailing stream." (Amos 5:21-24).
"What are your endless sacrifices to me? says God. I am sick of holocausts of rams and the fat of calves. The blood of bulls and of goats revolts me. When you come to present yourselves before me, who asked you to trample over my courts? Bring me your worthless offerings no more, the smoke of them fills me with disgust. New Moons, sabbaths, assemblies -- I cannot endure festival and solemnity. Your New Moons and your pilgrimages I hate with all my soul...When you stretch out your hands I turn my eyes away. You may multiply your prayers, I shall not listen. Your hands are covered with blood, wash, make yourselves for justice, help the oppressed, be just to the orphan, plead for the widow." (Is.1:11-17).

The prophets had declared that a completely different type of temple would replace the old brick building in Jerusalem, a spiritual temple that would tower above the mountains, touching the sky. A temple all people on earth would be able to worship within.

"In the days to come the mountain of the Temple of God shall tower above the mountains and be lifted higher than the hills. All the nations shall stream to it, peoples without number will come to it. They will say, 'Come, let us go to the mountain of God that he may teach us his ways so that we may walk in his paths." (Is.2:2-3).

Jesus informed the Jews that God is gathering all the returning nations of Zion into the Jerusalem of heaven, not back to Palestine:

"Mine is not a kingdom of this world, if my kingdom were of this world, my men would have fought to prevent my being surrendered to the Jews. But my kingdom is not of this kind." (Jn.18:36).

"There is no eternal city for us in this life, but we look for one in the life to come." (Heb.13:14).

There is no temple in the city of God because, as the Book of Revelations revealed, Jesus and God are themselves the Temple of that new eternal city in heaven.

"I saw that there was no temple in the city since the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb were themselves the temple..." (Rev.21:22).

Going back to the Old Testament, we can see that the foundation stone of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem was a physical rock -- a rock called the 'rock of Abraham' -- the threshing stone on Mount Moriah that David purchased from Arunah the Jebusite, and on which, it was thought, Abraham almost sacrificed his son Isaac.

"But their rock is not like our rock" (Dt.32:31).

When Jesus changed temple worship to spiritual worship, he also changed the rock, the foundation of the sanctuary:

"Believe me, woman, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem...the hour will come -- in fact it is here already -- when true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth: that is the kind of worshipper the Father wants. God is spirit, and those who worship must worship in spirit and truth." (Jn.4:21-24).

With these words, Jesus threw out all the stones and pillars of the past and replaced them with acts of compassion and mercy instead. The true 'foundation' of the sanctuary of God is faith in Christ. This is why Jesus replaced the rock of Abraham on Mt. Moriah in Jerusalem with "Petros", a rock of human faith

So Jesus then said to Simon:

"You are 'Rock' and on this rock I will build my church." (Mt.16:18).

At that very moment, Mt. Moriah and the rock of Abraham were immediately succeeded by the"living stones which form God's spiritual house". (1 Peter 2:5).

Renaming him 'rock' (Petra), Jesus made Peter the keystone of His new church -- a living keystone in a living spiritual edifice that would never in the future fall into ruin or be destroyed. The Jewish leaders rejected this new Church and its keystone and remained faithful to the rock of Abraham instead.

"It was the stone rejected by the builders whch proved to be the keystone..." (Ps.118:22).

Ezekiel, describing this new temple that would tower above the mountains, said that its design was to be given to us, not just in words, but in writing as well:

"Son of man, describe this Temple to the House of Israel, to shame them out of their filthy practices. Let them draw up the plan, and, if they are ashamed of their behavior, show them the design and plan of the Temple, its exits, and entrances, its shape, how all of it is arranged, the entire design and all its principles. Give them all this in writing so that they can see and take note of its design and the way it is all arranged and carry it out." (Ez.43:10-12).

God showed through the prophets that He intended His words to be written down, not just spoken:

"Now go and inscribe this on a tablet, write it in a book, that it may serve in the time to come as a witness forever." (Is.30:8).

The voice that we hear, that speaks to us from the midst of the fire (see below), is the voice of Jesus Christ who spoke God's own words and which we can hear now because they were written down:

"The deaf that day will hear the words of a book and, after shadow and darkness, the eyes of the blind will see." (Is.29:18).

The eyes of the blind see and the ears of the deaf hear because they can read and hear the words of God's Book.

"Then God spoke to you from the midst of the fire; you heared the sound of words but saw no shape, there was only a voice. And God revealed his covenant to you and commanded you to observe it..." (Dt.4:12-13).

Beautiful and magnificent to the eyes of the Jews, the temple of Herod in Jerusalem was only a ruins according to God, even while it still stood.

"The city shall be rebuilt on its ruins, the citadel restored on its site." (Jer.30:18). "Their prince will be one of their own, their ruler come from their own people. I will let him come freely into my presence and he can come close to me..." (Jer.30:21).

That prince was Jesus, and he was to be the architect of the rebuilding of God's true eternal temple of righteous behavior predicted in prophecy,

"I am he who says of Cyrus, 'My shepherd -- he will fulfil my whole purpose, saying of Jerusalem, 'Let her be rebuilt', and of the Temple, 'Let your foundation be laid". (Is.44:28).

Since scripture shows that Jesus himself was the temple, it could only be rebuilt in his image -- by our conversion into that image.

"He will rebuild the ancient ruins, build up on the old foundations. He will rebuild my city, will bring my exiles back without ransom or indemnity...He will be called 'Beach-mender', Restorer of ruined houses." (Is.44:28,45:13, 58:12).

"Destroy this Temple and I will raise it up in 3 days."

See Also:

1. Temple -- Warning from God
2. Rebuilding the Temple
3. God Does Not Live in a Human House
4. 'The Last Days of Babylon', Chapter 14, 'The Citadel of the Proud'

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