Where God Dwelt with Israel

Building the Temple

And I saw no therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it. —Revelation 21:2temple 2

Ted Marten

The word temple in the Old Testament comes from the Hebrew word which primarily means palace or any magnificent building. It is only when we look at the many references to the temple in the Scriptures which use instead the term “house of the Lord” or “house of God,” that we understand the more appropriate thought of the word as being the dwelling place of God.

The Scriptures use the word temple in relation to several things:

The place of worship of false gods—Acts 19:27

God’s dwelling place in the heavens—Psalm 11:4

The physical buildings (Solomon’s, Zerubbabel’s, and Herod’s)—2 Chronicles 4:7,8

The Church class as a composite body—Ephesians 2:21

Individual members of the Church—1 Corinthians 6:19

When God conceived his plan for man before the foundations of the earth, even before the Logos was created, he envisioned a dwelling place for himself with other beings of his same nature, through whom he would deal with the remainder of his creatures. These individuals would be so filled with his spirit, would be so loyal, would love him so much that he could trust them to do as he would do.

So he conceived the final outcome and then began to fashion how that glorious plan would come about. During the Jewish age God directed the building of several structures which would illustrate his work in the construction of his dwelling place.

The Tabernacle

In the year 1615 B.C.1 the Israelites left Egypt after their deliverance was brought about by the plagues brought upon the Egyptians and that culminated in the death of all the first-born of Egypt.

During the next 13 months the Israelites would travel to Mt. Sinai and while encamped there would build the Tabernacle in the Wilderness, according to the specifications God would give to Moses. This structure is usually referred to in Scripture as the tabernacle, but it is also called the tent (from the same Hebrew word); it is also referred to as the House of the Lord, the House of God, and in two Scriptures as the temple of the LORD (1 Samuel 1:9; 3:3).

The Tabernacle served Israel as the place where, through their High Priest, they could communicate with God and where their sins could be atoned for in a typical, temporary way. The Tabernacle also has served spiritual Israel by showing them in picture form how the real atonement for sin is actually accomplished and, in another picture, how one comes into a relationship with God and progresses to a heavenly reward.

Solomon’s Temple

When the Tabernacle had served its intended purpose for 587 years, it was replaced in 1028 B.C. by the temple conceived by David and built by Solomon. The temple took seven years to build and remained standing for 422 years until the army of Nebuchadnezzar destroyed it in 606 B.C., although it only retained its original full beauty and sacred significance for a short time. Just 33 years after its inauguration, Rehoboam surrendered the treasures of the temple to Shishak the king of Egypt. What followed were periods in which the temple was neglected and looted, followed by feeble attempts to restore it.

God kept the tabernacle viable for almost 600 years, yet he allowed the temple, a building of such beauty and sacred significance, to fall into disrepair, disuse, and eventually destruction in much less time. Paul tells us why: “Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come” (1 Corinthians 10:11). God had Solomon’s temple constructed for the lessons it would provide his people of the Gospel age, and incidentally for his chosen people of Israel, and eventually for all the world of mankind.

When the intended lessons of the tabernacle and Solomon’s temple had served their function in regard to natural Israel and spiritual Israel, they were allowed to go away in a seemingly natural way; yet we think the process was fully planned by the one who is too wise to err.

The Construction of the Temple

Because there is more information in Scripture about the planning, the construction, and the dedication of Solomon’s temple than the services that were afterward conducted in it, we conclude that the important lessons are contained in the construction of the temple.

David must have been an inspiration for Solomon who began his kingship in such an appropriate manner, asking for wisdom to judge God’s people with understanding, then beginning the building of the temple. We can see how these character traits are also required for those who would be a part of that spiritual temple: an attitude that always puts first one’s relationship to God, and the desire to honor God in action, thought, and word.

The stones for the temple were probably quarried from beneath the city of Jerusalem at a site now known as Solomon’s quarry. It is a huge underground area under the surface of the old city. The Scriptures tell us that the stones were so carefully and perfectly shaped that they needed no additional work at the site. In 1 Kings 6:7 we read, “And the house, when it was in building, was built of stone made ready before it was brought thither: so that there was neither hammer nor axe nor any tool of iron heard in the house, while it was in building.” The Scripture does not say that the stones were quarried and fitted for their place in the temple without the use of a hammer or other instrument, but that once they had gone through the preparation work the assembly work was accomplished in silence.

The stones of the antitypical temple have been in the process of being quarried and fitted for their places for nearly 2,000 years, but the building phase did not begin until the raising of the sleeping saints in 1878, an event unobserved by the world. The time for the recognition of the heavenly temple has not yet come and the building is not yet finished. The shaping of the last stones is now in progress; as they are finished, they are put in place. The construction of the building has been going on silently, without the sound of a hammer.

“So Solomon overlaid the house within with pure gold: … And the whole house he overlaid with gold, until he had finished all the house” (1 Kings 6:21,22). The temple was constructed of stone; the stone inside was covered with wood—floors, walls, and ceiling—and all the wood was covered with gold.

When the antitypical temple is completed, it will appear to the world, by the eye of faith, as a white, righteous structure designed by God, the building blocks being quarried out of the earth and fitted for this structure without any particular notice by the world, even though it may have played a part in the cutting and shaping of the individual stones.

Inside the Temple

We see the temple from God’s perspective on the inside, with the white stone representing the righteousness once imputed to the individual, but when put into position in the temple, having righteousness in its own right. The wood on the inside of the building teaches that those stones had their origin as human beings, but now, in the completed temple, they are covered with gold, they have the divine nature: “So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: it is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: it is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality” (1 Corinthians 15:42-44,53) How well this is pictured by covering the wood with gold indicating that the temple is composed of those who have the divine nature.

When the typical temple was completed, Solomon instructed the priests and Levites to bring the ark of the covenant from the tent where David had put it, to the temple; it was brought into the Most Holy and the staves used to transport it were removed. Inside the ark all that remained were the tablets of the law that were delivered to Moses.

The antitypical significance of these things gives us an appreciation of God’s direction in creating this picture. The removal of the staves show us that when the propitiatory is in the temple, it has reached its final destination. It shows in symbol that the blood applied to it has satisfied the demands of justice, to qualify the mediator to administer that phase of God’s plan, which will bring mankind back into harmony with him. The merit of Christ’s sacrifice, which had been used or imputed to the church during its period of development, is available for application to the world of mankind.

The fact that the golden cherubims with out-stretched wings hovered over the ark would seem to indicate the whole process of providing atonement was under divine supervision.

Missing from the ark were Aaron’s rod that budded and the golden pot of manna that Paul says were in the ark when it was in the tabernacle (Hebrews 9:4).The budded rod of Aaron reminds the antitypical underpriests of their privilege of service and the need to be fruitful in putting on the spiritual likeness of their forerunner.  The golden bowl of manna pictured the immortality promised to the royal priesthood, for that manna never corrupted (Revelation 2:17). Both the rod and manna disappear when the antitypical temple is complete which is why they did not appear in the ark when it came to rest in the temple.

When Solomon had finished building the temple, the time had come to dedicate the structure to the Lord and his service.

Inaugurating the Temple

Solomon opened the service by first blessing the Lord God of Israel for choosing David his father to be king over Israel, and his own privilege of building the temple. He offered a prayer to God beginning with his realization that the heavens were inadequate to contain God, so this temple was far less adequate. He asks that God watch over all of the doings of his people Israel, and when they sin and then repent, that he will have compassion upon them.

When Solomon finished with his prayer, then began what might at first be considered a rather strange sequence of events: “Then the king and all the people offered sacrifices before the LORD. And king Solomon offered a sacrifice of twenty and two thousand oxen, and an hundred and twenty thousand sheep: so the king and all the people dedicated the house of God. And the priests waited on their offices: the Levites also with instruments of music of the LORD, which David the king had made to praise the LORD, because his mercy endureth for ever, when David praised by their ministry; and the priests sounded trumpets before them, and all Israel stood. Moreover Solomon hallowed [or sanctified or consecrated] the middle of the court that was before the house of the LORD: for there he offered burnt offerings, and the fat of the peace offerings, because the brasen altar which Solomon had made was not able to receive the burnt offerings, and the meat offerings, and the fat.”— 2 Chronicles 7:4-7

Solomon’s Role

In the context, the priests (plural) and the Levites are mentioned, but not the High Priest, even though it would appear logical and fitting that he would play the major role in this dedication ceremony. Moreover, we recall when King Saul offered a sacrifice without waiting for Samuel, the one whom the Lord had appointed, it cost him the privilege of passing his kingship to his posterity.

Why did Solomon take it upon himself to take the lead in this important event? He seems to have displaced the Lord’s appointed spiritual leader much as Saul had done, and yet it does not seem to have displeased Jehovah, certainly not as Solomon’s subsequent acts did.

The explanation lies in the antitype. When the antitypical temple is completed, the high priest of our profession will have finished his work as a sacrificing high priest in offering himself and his body members. He will then in the fullest sense be the greater than Solomon. It is the time when the marriage of Christ and his bride takes place.

The Scriptures do not clearly state that Solomon personally participated in the sacrificing work, and so it is quite probable he directed the whole dedication ceremony. By having Solomon play the leading role the lesson is that Jesus is being portrayed in his role of king, in harmony with the picture of Melchizedek who was both priest and king. Christ Jesus will give thanks to God for the privilege of directing the building of the temple and seek God’s continued blessing on his work as King of Kings.

Nothing in Scripture tells us of the use of the temple for the remainder of Solomon’s life, nor in the reign of succeeding kings with but a few exceptions. In 606 B.C. the temple was looted by the army of Nebuchadnezzar; all the vessels and treasures it contained were carried away to Babylon. They burnt the remains of the temple so all that remained were ruins of what had previously been the house of the Lord.

Zerubbabel’s Temple

But that was not the end of the temple. 70 years later God raised up Cyrus, who conquered Babylon and perceived that God had relegated to him the responsibility to provide another temple on the site of the original temple.

Does it not make us stand in awe and wonder how our heavenly Father works to accomplish his plans? Nebuchadnezzar carried away the utensils of the temple and when they reached Babylon, they were put into his temple. Many years later God raised up a man who was undoubtedly a pagan, Cyrus by name. After coming to power in Persia and extending his power to the land of the Medes, he turned his conquest westward to Babylon. After a spectacular conquest of the city of Babylon, Cyrus makes a proclamation recorded in the last two verses of second Chronicles and the opening verses of Ezra:

“Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying, Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, The LORD God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and he hath charged me to build him an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah” (Ezra 1:1,2). It seems reasonable that Cyrus had heard of the prophecies concerning him in the writings of Isaiah, which called him by name and predicted his actions in regard to Israel’s return to Jerusalem and rebuilding the temple.

It was one thing for Cyrus to be flattered by having been mentioned by the God of the Israelites, but it is amazing that he believed enough that he was willing to not only let the people return to their land, but was willing to finance the project and even be their protector during the construction. Truly God works in mysterious ways to accomplish his purposes.

When Zerubbabel began to build the temple in Jerusalem, the people of the land, the descendents of those who had been brought into the land when Esarhaddon took the ten tribes of Israel captive, offered their service in the building. They based their offering on the fact that they worshipped the same God as the returned Israelites. These were the people who when they were brought to the land, requested a priest from the captive Israelites to teach them about the customs, the religion, and the God of the former inhabitants.

Refusing Help

We are not told who the priest was or what he taught the people, but his efforts were far from successful. In 2 Kings 17:29-34 we read that the people had all brought their own gods with them and continued to worship these false gods. It was because of the mixing of the worship of Jehovah with that of other gods that Zerubabel and the other elders rejected the offer of help from those who would come to be known as Samaritans.

What lesson is contained in this incident? Since Solomon employed many foreigners in the building of the first temple, why was not the same procedure followed in the building of the second? Although the men who worked on the first temple were probably favorable toward Israel, nonetheless they were not Jews and yet there was no objection to their participation.

If the stones of the temple represent the individuals of the antitypical temple, then the shaping and fitting for their place in the temple is done through the agency of the world from which there is opposition. That would seem ample reason for using the foreigners in the preparation work.

In the days of Zerubbabel the reason foreign help was not accepted was most likely because if those who later came to be called Samaritans were given a role in the building, they most likely would have wanted a voice in the use of the temple.

To make this application to the antitype it would apply not when that temple was begun at Pentecost but at a time later in the age.

While the building of Solomon’s temple shows us details regarding the quarrying and preparation of the stones, the building of Zerubbabel’s temple places the emphasis on who does the rebuilding. Because of this emphasis, the picture of the temple centers more on the Word of God and shows the builders as the church with its belief and doctrines as determining their fitness to be part of the temple. The Jews who returned to Jerusalem were already dedicated followers of Zerubabel, the prince who was commissioned to rebuild the temple.

This picture therefore would seem to have special application, not when the selection of the church began at Pentecost, but more particularly when the harvest began. It was then that those, who had been indoctrinated with the errors of nominal systems and the worldly spirit, wanted to bring some of those errors into the temple condition which was returning to an understanding of the basic truths once delivered to the saints.

Those who would bring the doctrinal errors of men, who had substituted their own thinking for that of the Scriptures, could not be included with those who both heard the message “Come out of her my people” and obeyed the command.

Ezra tells us about the beginning of the building. He tells us of the joy and enthusiasm that filled the people when they realized that the work had finally begun. It was like that when the harvest began. “And they sang together by course in praising and giving thanks unto the LORD; because he is good, for his mercy endureth for ever toward Israel. And all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid. 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 3:11,12)

The prophet Haggai gives us a little different perspective on the reaction of the ancient men: “Who is left among you that saw this house in her first glory? and how do ye see it now? is it not in your eyes in comparison of it as nothing?” (Haggai 2:3). There must have been tears of joy at the prospect of the rebuilt temple when the foundation was laid, but when the temple was completed, one could not help but compare it to the spectacular beauty of the previous structure. Yet Haggai gives them reassurance of God’s continued care: “Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, saith the LORD; and be strong, O Joshua, son of Josedech, the high priest; and be strong, all ye people of the land, saith the LORD, and work: for I am with you, saith the LORD of hosts. According to the word that I covenanted with you when ye came out of Egypt, so my spirit remaineth among you: fear ye not” (Haggai 2:4,5). Even though the temple did not compare in outward beauty to the previous one, the important message to the faithful Israelites was that the Lord’s spirit remained with them.

And that encouragement was needed also for those who had left the magnificent edifices of Babylon to meet with those who appreciated the message of their returned Lord and were content to meet in small groups, feasting upon the truth.

The Temple of Herod

The temple that was erected in the days of Ezra stood for nearly 500 years until the time of Herod, styled “the great” by Josephus to distinguish him from those of his sons who bore the same name. In about the year B.C. 17 Herod, who was a Jew by faith but not by birth, proposed to build a new temple. His idea did not meet with acceptance by the Jews who refused to let him start the building fearing that if he tore down what remained of Zerubabel’s temple, he would not build a new one. It was only after he assembled the materials for the new temple that they agreed to the tearing down of the old.

According to Josephus the temple proper was finished in about a year and a half, but because of additions and alterations, at the beginning of our Lord’s ministry the Jews said the temple had been in the process of building for 46 years—the implication was that it was still not finished (see John 2:20).

The Jews were reluctant to refer to this as the third temple; they preferred to think of it as a rebuilding of Zerubabel’s temple. Nonetheless it was a new building that for all intents and purposes was built by one who was anything but a man of God. Thus the building of this temple contains at least three lessons from God concerning the stones and the builders: 1) Jesus’ symbolic cleansing of the temple; 2) Jesus’ statement about rebuilding the temple in three days; 3) the renting of the veil in the temple when Jesus died.

It was necessary for the Jews to have a typical temple when Messiah arrived to show that the typical kingdom of Israel was about to come to an end of its favor with God, and that the tabernacle and the temple that succeeded it were about to be replaced. The temple symbolized to the Jews the polity of the nation as well as the center of their religion. As a theocracy, at least theoretically, they recognized God as their head or king.

Jesus presented himself to the Jewish house in the beginning of their harvest as bridegroom and reaper. Just before his crucifixion he presented himself as their king, exercising his authority in pronouncing judgment against them by declaring their house desolate and by an act of cleansing the temple.

The parallel of this act in the Gospel age harvest occurred in 1878 when the consecrated or temple class, still in the nominal system, was told that Babylon was fallen from its position as repository of God’s word. They were to leave so they might be cleansed from the defilements of that cast-off system.

Raising the Temple in Three Days

As this temple teaching had its fulfillment at the end of the age, likewise that which had to do with raising the temple in three days would not have its full application until the harvest of the Gospel age. Jesus replied to the request of the Jews for a sign of his authority by saying: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days? But he spake of the temple of his body. When therefore he was risen from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this unto them; and they believed the scripture, and the word which Jesus had said” (John 2:19-22).

The Jews did not understand what Jesus said; they didn’t even get the point that he made when he said “destroy this temple.” They thought he said that he would destroy the temple and then he would rebuild it in three 24-hour days, when he clearly meant that they would be the cause of the destruction: “two false witnesses said, This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days” (Matthew 26:60,61). We wonder how fully the disciples understood this was a prophesy that indicated it would take over 2,000 years to complete the true temple which was his body.

Jesus was not talking about his human body. This he gave for the life of the world. And he did not raise himself from the dead. The bodies in which he appeared after his resurrection were not the human body that he had before the crucifixion for the disciples failed to recognize him on several occasions; he was able to come and go as the wind. Could the disciples have known that they were living in the fifth thousand-year day since Adam, and that the completion of the body of Christ, the temple, would not be complete until the beginning of the seventh?

Even if they did not understand this, it is an inspiring concept for us who know that we are now living in that seventh day. We know we are living when the last temple stones are being fitted and prepared. Even in this earthly condition we have a foretaste of what will be, from a promise of Jesus: “If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him” (John 14:23).

If we are living up to our privileges, we will be feasting on the truth that has been provided for us, and dwelling in heavenly places with our Father and our Lord by our communion in prayer and reliance on the precious promise of God.

“The Veil Was Rent”

The last of the main lessons from the third temple concerns the parting of the veil: “Jesus cried with a loud voice, and gave up the spirit. And the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom” (Mark 15:37,38). The rending of the veil top to bottom indicated that it was a manifestation from heaven and not from wear and tear. God was showing that this was from him, and it meant that the way into the heavenly condition was now open to those who follow in Jesus’ footsteps. Paul corroborates this thought: “Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh” (Hebrews 10:19, 20). Yes, a new and living way into the most holy, the divine presence, has been opened to us and it could only be opened by the blood of our Savior whose merit provides for our justification.

The apostle Peter brings the illustration of the temple to a personal level when he says, “You also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual2 sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5, NASV). It is obvious that Peter’s comparison is to the typical stones of Solomon’s temple. These stones are shaped and fitted even more carefully because they will make up the spiritual house, these “stones” offer sacrifices acceptable to God because they are offered with the imputed merit of their high priest.

Paul also uses this illustration of the temple to show us the responsibilities of those who will be a part of the antitypical temple: “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). Paul emphasizes that this illustration of the temple pertains only to those who are consecrated and spirit-begotten for it is these who have the Spirit of God dwelling in them. Then he warns these that the defiling of this favored position by returning to worldly pursuits, worldly desires, and worldly ambitions will show him to be a stone which will be rejected and destroyed by God in the second death.

The apostle John in explaining the vision of the New Jerusalem says, “I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it” (Revelation 21:22). John indicates that when the New Jerusalem is complete, there is no temple therein. Jehovah and his beloved Son are the temple—the Father as the creator and the lamb as the one who executed the plan conceived by God.

When the world is restored to fellowship with God, then the words of Revelation 21:3 will truly come to pass: “And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle [dwelling place] 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.”

Let us realize the lengths that our heavenly Father has gone to provide us a comprehensive picture of the part that we have been invited to have with our Lord, and strive to be worthy of his love in calling us to be stones in his dwelling place.


1 Editors' note: All dates in this article follow the chronology found in The Time Is At Hand by Charles T. Russell.

2 The word “spiritual” is deleted on the authority of Constatine Tishendorf’s reading of the Siniatic manuscript which omits the word. We do not sacrifice spiritual things.