Spring 2008 Magazine: The Nation of Israel and the Temple of God Part II
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In Galatians 3:16 we read that Christ is the seed of Abraham. Then, in verse 29, Paul refers to the Gentile converts, saying, "If you be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise." This was the promise given to Abraham and it now applies to all Jews and non-Jews who have, in Christ, joined God’s spiritual Israel.

The Heart not the Flesh
The New Testament is replete with warnings to those Jews who put their trust in their literal connection to the lineage of Abraham instead of realizing the spiritual significance of being God's people. Paul’s references to this are emphatic and cannot, without destroying the beauty of Scriptural symbolism, be misapplied or misunderstood. In Romans, Paul reveals the truth about Israel of the flesh and Israel of the promise. Consider some of these comparisons:

Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel (Romans 9:6).

That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed (Romans 9:8).

In Romans 2 Paul makes it unmistakably clear what he understands regarding the spiritual and fleshy implications of what being a Jew or Israelite is all about:

Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God...For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision.

Therefore if the uncircumcision (Gentiles) keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision? And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision dost transgress the law?

For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God (Romans 2:17, 25-29).

Christ said to the Jews in His day, "Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham" (Matthew 3:8-9).

John reveals Christ’s attitude towards those who thought they were safe simply by virtue of their physical connection to Abraham:

They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham...Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do (John 8:39, 44).

Paul understood this in exactly the same way as Christ revealed it:

Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham (Galatians 3:7).

For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh (Philippians 3:3).

When Peter received his vision of the clean and unclean animals and was told to arise and eat, he was still of the opinion that salvation was for the Jews. But, after this revelation, Peter catches what Christ had revealed and declares, "Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him" (Acts 10:34-35).

It was not enough for the Jew or, for that matter, anyone else, to rest in the external manifestations of Israel’s calling. The issue was, primarily, a matter of the heart. The Jews were to look forward to this in its fullest fulfillment in Christ and to allow it to work itself out in the practice of their lives. Christians, under the new covenant continue to live it as heart religion, while they too realize its ultimate fulfillment in the Messiah.

Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah...For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts (Hebrews 8:8, 10).

Nowhere in Scripture do we ever find God making a covenant with anyone but the Israelites, the Jews. In order to be saved, we must all become spiritual Jews.

The Christian faith was based upon the evidences found in a Jewish document:

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

The doctrines, teachings, and instructions in righteousness for the Christian faith are found in the Old Testament writings that defined the Jewish religion and pointed to the Messiah as the consummation of their hopes. If I am not faithful to the evidence of this Word and do not recognize or accept Christ, whether I am a Jew or Gentile, I am no better off than any other human being. Let us again consider the words of Paul:

For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh (Philippians 3:3).

In light of this evidence the theology that literalizes many of the New Testament references to the temple needs to be revisited too.

Some of the Christian Zionists who promote the theory that the temple in Jerusalem will be literally rebuilt include: Thomas Ice, Randall Price, Grant Jeffery, Hal Lindsay, Tim LaHaye (of Left Behind fame), Dave Hunt, and John Hagee. Their combined published sales exceed $70 million in over 50 languages. A large portion of evangelical, charismatic, pentecostal, and other fundamentalist Christians around the world support their views.

There is no real Scriptural evidence to support this theology. One of the primary texts used to build the whole theology of the secret rapture, the rebuilding of the temple, and the seven-year tribulation is Daniel 9:27:

And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.

It would take a whole article on its own to expound the full meaning and context of this verse, but, for the purpose of this study, a few brief comments will suffice. Adventist theologians, using the historical method of prophetic interpretation, have shown that this is a prophecy about the ministry and death of Christ commencing in AD 27. This one-week timeframe finally culminates in the stoning of Stephen in AD 34 when the Gospel goes to the Gentiles.

The evidences for this interpretation are not exclusive to Daniel 9, but actually go back to the prophecy of the 2300 days of Daniel 8. A 70-week time frame is cut off from that period that begins in BC 457 with the decree to rebuild Jerusalem. Adventists have always, based on the clear evidence contained in these Scriptures themselves, seen the 70 weeks as one continual timeline. Futurists, on the other hand, separate the last week of the 70 weeks from the overall period and project its fulfillment into the future–the seven years of tribulation and the appearance of the Antichrist. The irony is that a prophecy which was intended to reveal the Messiah, His ministry and death, now becomes a prophecy about the appearance of the devil. Instead of the Messiah putting an end to the sacrificial system (becoming the antitypical lamb of God) in the midst of the seven years, the devil puts an end to animal sacrifice in a temple that is to be rebuilt in Jerusalem.

Another proof that apparently lends credence to the futurist interpretation of Daniel 9:27 is 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4:

Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.

The basic premise is that for the man of sin to be able to sit in the "temple of God," the temple has to be rebuilt. On the surface, this type of reasoning may seem to hold water, but, on deeper investigation, the logic of this conclusion completely disappears.

The first question one would ask in connection with a rebuilt temple in Jerusalem, where the sacrificial system is reintroduced is: Can it really be said that such a temple is the "temple of God?"

The original sanctuary and its artifacts, rituals, and sacrificial ceremonies were types or shadows that pointed to the real Messiah and Lamb of God who would come to fulfill, in Himself, all that these things. Of this temple it can be said that it was "the temple of God," in a literal or physical sense.

When Jesus died He put an end to the need for that sanctuary of types and shadows. This is demonstrated in the very events that took place at His death such as the lamb escaping from the altar and the curtain in the temple being torn. This is also seen in the declarations Christ made to the Jewish leaders, especially in light of the fact that they did not want to accept Him as the Messiah and finally decreed His death. He told them, "your house is left unto you desolate." He declared to the disciples that not one stone of the temple would be left upon another (Matthew 23:38; 24:1-2).

In light of these considerations one has to reconsider the statement by Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4. A newly built temple cannot, in any sense of the word, be called "the temple of God." In fact, the erection of such an temple and the reintroduction of sacrificial rites would be blasphemy against the completed work and present priestly ministry of Christ in the heavenly sanctuary. Indeed, there is a better, Biblical way of understanding the concept of the "temple of God" in the New Testament context.

In 1 Chronicles a prophecy is made about the Messiah:

And it shall come to pass, when thy days be expired that thou must go to be with thy fathers, that I will raise up thy seed after thee, which shall be of thy sons; and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build me an house, and I will stablish his throne for ever. I will be his father, and he shall be my son: and I will not take my mercy away from him, as I took it from him that was before thee: But I will settle him in mine house and in my kingdom for ever: and his throne shall be established for evermore (1 Chronicles 17:11-14).

This house that the Messiah would build would be a spiritual house. As head of this spiritual house He would, as High Priest and King, officiate from the true and original temple in heaven–the heavenly sanctuary. That which constituted the earthly temple was fulfilled in primarily a spiritual sense. The following Scriptures adequately demonstrate this point.

Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are (1 Corinthians 3:16-17).

In this text it already becomes apparent that God sees the temple as more than a building of brick or stone. God’s people, in a spiritual sense, are His temple. This can be understood in an individual and collective sense as this next comment by Paul will illustrate:

And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people (2 Corinthians 6:16).

Here, God’s collective people are described as being a temple of God–the community of the faith. This community of faith or the temple of God are now the present, physical house of God. In their hearts and lives the work of Christ is now made complete through the spirit dwelling within.

Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit (Ephesians 2:19-22).

Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded (1 Peter 2:5-6).

These texts clearly illustrate the redundancy of the old temple and its system. God’s people, the Church of Christ, now represent the true spiritual house of God, built upon its true spiritual head, Jesus Christ, the cornerstone. The acceptable sacrifice to God is now a spiritual sacrifice.

When Paul speaks about the man of sin sitting in the temple of God, he is talking about the Antichrist power that will rise up within the fellowship of the Christian faith. In fact, he said that in his day already that spirit of the Antichrist was at work.

It would be debatable whether God would even allow another temple to be rebuilt in Jerusalem. Even if it did happen it could not, based on the evidence, be THE "temple of God." The Christian world has been duped by the devil into looking for a man of sin, who is not really the man of sin, in a temple that does not even exist. The reformers always recognized papal Rome as the Antichrist system that rose up within the fellowship of the Christian faith and styled its pontifical head as another god on Earth. This system, according to Daniel 7, Revelation 13, and other prophecies continues until the end of time when Christ will return and put an end to its rule.

This makes it all the more important for us to remember that we as individual members of the body are also the temple of God, bought with the precious blood of Christ. "Let no man deceive you," Paul said. Jesus will not return until there is a falling away first and that man of sin is revealed. May we be true and faithful members of the temple of God, the Israel of Christ, and true spiritual Jews who stand firm in the truth until He finally comes.

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