Saturday, February 9, 2013

Can you tell me where the Temple is?

     Back to 2 Corinthians again! My last post in the book was on 6:1;  one of my favorite passages in 2 Cor is 6:16-18, as you might have guessed when I tied it into a couple of my first posts there.  But I didn't exhaust the riches in this text (who could?), and I thought an exploration of one more aspect of Paul's use of the O.T. and its terminology would be permissible and profitable.  Here's our text:
"And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? for you 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.  Wherefore come out from among them, and be separate, says the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,  And will be a Father unto you, and you shall be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty." (6:16-18)
     We previously pondered how we as Gentiles (Jews literally called us "dogs" in Jesus's time!) could partake in promises seemingly addressed to Israel as a nation, but I don't think I took a stab at answering what could be an even more intriguing question...

How could Paul say that our bodies are temples of God?  

"Not one foreigner is to enter inside the, around the Sanctuary..."
     Think about it... Paul lived at the height of what's called Second Temple Judaism (the first Temple, Solomon's, was destroyed by the Babylonians in/around 586 B.C.):  he had worshipped there, prayed there, learned there, and probably taught others there as a faithful Pharisee and one of Gamaliel's most prominent disciples.  The site of the Temple was likely the most highly regulated place in the nation:  the Jewish authorities were not allowed to issue a death penalty in most cases under Roman law, but a Gentile incursion onto the holy ground of the Temple was still punishable by death, and the immediate "execution" of such a sentence was permissible by most Roman governors (Acts 21:28).  That's why the above warning was posted... so that pious Jews would be blameless for the defense of their Temple.   Jesus and Stephen were likely the most famous prosecuted (falsely, of course!) under this regulation (Mt 26:61, Acts 6:13-14).
     So if anyone had a reason to be a ultraliteralist, a "it says 'Temple', so it must mean the gold-encrusted, stone edifice atop Mt. Zion!" kind of guy, it was Paul.  But that's not the case... he uses the term metaphorically 5 times (of a total of 11;  1 Cor 3:16, 17, 6:19, 2 Cor 6:16, Eph 2:21).  Both of his uses of "tabernacle", the predecessor to the Temple, are symbolic (2 Cor 5:1,4).  Where did he get this crazy idea that the Temple served as a symbol and picture of something greater?

The Lord Jesus Christ!
"Or have ye not read in the law, how that on the sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the sabbath, and are blameless?  I tell you, something greater than the temple is here." (Mt 12:5-6)  "Jesus answered and said unto them, 'Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.'...  But he spake of the temple of his body."  (Jn 2:20-21)
Likely the worst misunderstanding of the Temple in Salt Lake City
     More than once, Jesus used the stone structure in Jerusalem to point to a greater reality of God dwelling with His people.  Think about it:  that's the whole reason He instituted a place where men could worship, commune, and interact with Him.  This overarching theme gives new meaning to verses like Jn 1:14 ("dwelt (lit. "tabernacled") among us") and Jn 14:16, 15:4 (dwelling as "abiding").  So, my conclusion is the climactic realization of the symbol of the physical Temple is Jesus Christ Himself:  He is Emmanuel ("God with us"), He is the ultimate meeting place between God and man, having the nature of both.  And for every believer under the New Covenant, He is where we go to for communion with God, for worship, and for atonement.  So as the Holy Spirit "abides with us forever", we become Temples of God through our union with Jesus.  This is the wonderful, eternal state we enjoy now and forever.

Photos courtesy of A. Vander Nat, jpstanley

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