The Temple was where Heaven and Earth met for the Jews. They understood the Temple to be the dwelling place of God. They didn’t believe that God lived primarily in heaven and only occasionally popped into the Temple. The temple was His home. The problem, however, was that with the building of the new Temple after the Babylonian captivity there was never a sense of God being present within the Temple.
By the time we come to the world of the New Testament the Temple was no longer the place that it was meant to be. At both the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and at the end, Jesus cleanses the Temple. He drives out the money changers and people who were using it for their own gain. The High Priest and many of the other religious leaders were not true spiritual leaders, but in many cases simply political hacks. The world of the Temple had become so corrupt that it was operated almost like a banking system. One of the more spurious operations carried out within the temple was the fact that people’s financial debts were stored there.
Though the charade of meaningful sacrifice continued to be carried on at the temple, most religious figures understood that something was wrong. As a result, many Jews continued to believe that they were still in captivity and if they looked around at the occupying Romans that belief was reinforced.
The Jews understood their world in light of the Exodus. They understood their history to be one of deliverance. There was a tyrant who would be defeated in battle by a deliverer. The vocation of the leader would be to free the people from the tyrant’s grasp and fulfill the inheritance of the people. This would be God’s final justice on the oppressing power (tyrant) and restoration of the promises made through God’s covenants and promises.
By the time we come to the 1st Century anticipation is running high amongst many Jews that the prophecies of Daniel concerning the 490 years is about to come to an end and the Messiah is to return and fulfill the Exodus theme once again. God will raise up a deliverer (Messiah) who will overthrow the tyrant (Rome), cleanse the sanctuary by the return of His glory to the Temple, and set up His Kingdom where all nations will come to worship in Jerusalem.
It is little wonder that when Jesus came preaching the new Exodus in a completely new way the religious leaders were outraged. Jesus didn’t believe that the tyrant was Rome or any of the other super-powers that had oppressed Israel throughout its ages. The true tyrant was the evil behind these powers—Satan. Jesus great war of deliverance against the tyrant was not fought out on the battlefields of the Middle East but in breaking the power of sin that held His people captive to the great tyrant.
In Matthew 4 we have the story of Jesus temptations or tests. It is here in this wilderness after fasting for forty days and nights that Jesus meets the full force of Satan’s attacks and defeats them. What Satan was offering in these tests was to surrender his hold over the world if Jesus wouldn’t go to the cross. He was offering Jesus a shortcut to the redemption of humanity and all He had to do was acknowledge Satan’s right to the world. It is more than interesting that Satan says to Jesus, “if you are the son of God,” prove it.
It is here in the wilderness that Jesus breaks in upon the world in power presenting the Kingdom of God as an alternative to captivity and slavery under the power of sin. Of course the final victory was won at the cross where Satan is still calling out to God, “if you are the Son of God come down off the cross and save yourself and us,” through the mouth of the crucified man next to Jesus.
The expectations and hopes of the nation were fixated upon a deliverance from the Romans and the establishment of their nation as a free entity with the glory of God once again radiating through the temple. The temple would once again be where God and man met.
However, Jesus, the true Messiah, came declaring a spiritual warfare against the powers behind the ruling powers and offering deliverance from the bondage of sin to the people through belief. The children of Israel and the true nation were no longer belonging to literal Jews who traced their ancestry to Abraham. The Kingdom of God now consisted of Jews and Gentiles who believed in the grace of God for the forgiveness of sins.
This brings us back to the temple and the belief that it was the place where heaven and earth met, but the temple in the New Testament era no longer was that place. Instead the true meaning of Temple was where Jesus was and in what Jesus was doing. Jesus was a walking Temple where God dwelt. The Temple had been a signpost pointing through daily sacrifices to the time of true sacrifice. Now Jesus, the true sacrifice, had arrived and there was no room for the empty Temple any longer. This is why Jesus said He could tear down the literal temple and build it again in three days. He of course was referring to His sacrifice at Calvary.
So, why am I writing this? It is because Jesus is the true temple where Jesus, both God and man, dwell in His own person. Now look at 1 Corinthians 3:19-20;
19 “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;
20 you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your bodies.
It is an amazing and awesome thing to know that the Holy Spirit dwells within us as God dwelt within the Temple. It is in us, who are connected to Jesus through faith, the true temple, that we experience God in us. This is why we are not our own. We were bought with a price—the victory Jesus had over Satan at the cross. There is no need to worship at a temple made of stone or sacrifice animals because the Messiah has returned and established His Kingdom. Jesus is the great Temple where He and the Father are one, and we are the temple where the presence of God, through the Spirit, dwells.
I remember twenty years ago singing in church the song “Power in the Blood” and there is as much truth in that chorus today as there was then. The blood of Christ has set us free from the power of sin and given us the Kingdom of God. The Spirit dwells within, ever pointing us to God’s love manifested through the grace of mercy of Jesus at Calvary’s cross.
Yes, there is power in the blood that cleanses and restores!