The anticipation of a the building of a third temple in Jerusalem is mounting as many evangelical Christians look to the Middle East, persuaded that such a temple will eventually become the center of a futuristic reign of Christ.
Those who embrace this view may be surprised to learn that God has never requested, or desired a permanent house made with human hands.
In Acts 17, the apostle Paul preaching at Mars Hill, to the men of Athens, said the following:
God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed anything, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things… ~ Acts 17:24-25
In scripture, the first temple (aka Solomon’s temple) was build as a result of a desire in David’s heart to build God a house.
Now it came to pass, as David sat in his house, that David said to Nathan the prophet, Lo, I dwell in an house of cedars, but the ark of the covenant of the Lord remaineth under curtains. Then Nathan said unto David, Do all that is in thine heart; for God is with thee. ~ 1 Chronicles 17:1-2
Later, God spoke to Nathan the prophet in response to David’s desire to build God a house.
And it came to pass the same night, that the word of God came to Nathan, saying, Go and tell David my servant, Thus saith the Lord, Thou shalt not build me an house to dwell in: For I have not dwelt in an house since the day that I brought up Israel unto this day; but have gone from tent to tent, and from one tabernacle to another. Wheresoever I have walked with all Israel, spake I a word to any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to feed my people, saying, Why have ye not built me an house of cedars? Now therefore thus shalt thou say unto my servant David, Thus saith the Lord of hosts, I took thee from the sheepcote, even from following the sheep, that thou shouldest be ruler over my people Israel: And I have been with thee whithersoever thou hast walked, and have cut off all thine enemies from before thee, and have made thee a name like the name of the great men that are in the earth. Also I will ordain a place for my people Israel, and will plant them, and they shall dwell in their place, and shall be moved no more; neither shall the children of wickedness waste them any more, as at the beginning, And since the time that I commanded judges to be over my people Israel. Moreover I will subdue all thine enemies. Furthermore I tell thee that the Lord will build thee an house. 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. According to all these words, and according to all this vision, so did Nathan speak unto David. ~ 1 Chronicles 17:3-15
Though Solomon, David’s son, built the first temple, the words of God in the 1 Chronicles 17 were prophetic of another of David’s descendants. The one referred to by God would have an everlasting Kingdom, and it is he who will build a house for God. This is a reference to none other than the Messiah, Jesus.
Solomon’s kingdom was not a lasting kingdom, and the temple built by Solomon was eventually destroyed because of God’s judgment against the apostasy of the nation. The second temple, renovated by Herod, which was the standing temple during the time of the earthly ministry of Jesus, was also destroyed because of God’s judgment against Israel in 70 A.D.
If Jesus is the one who is going to build the house God desires, what sort of house will he build? How will it coincide with his reign as King, and when will Jesus reign as King?
THE ENTHRONEMENT OF CHRIST
When the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary in the gospel of Luke, he said concerning Jesus, “He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David.” ~ Luke 1:32
Though some interpret the reign of Christ from the throne of David as a future millennial throne previously occupied by the anti-Christ, the Bible teaches that Jesus is enthroned now at the right hand of God.
According to the authors of the New Testament, the exaltation of Jesus at the right hand of God is the fulfillment of God’s promise that he would raise up his Son, the Messiah, to reign upon the throne of David.
In Acts 2, Peter interprets the resurrection and exaltation of Jesus at the right hand of God as the fulfillment of the scriptures that the Messiah would reign from the throne of David.
Notice carefully how Peter articulates this:
Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption. This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear. For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, Until I make thy foes thy footstool. Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made the same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ. ~ Acts 2:30-36
In the texts above, Peter is quoting David from Psalm 110 when he says, “the Lord said unto my Lord, sit thou at my right hand, until I make thy foes thy footstool.”
FIRST, notice the words “the Lord said to my Lord, sit thou on my right hand…”
Peter quotes this in reference to David, as a prophet, knowing that God would raise up the Messiah to sit on his throne. So as a prophet, foreseeing the enthronement of the Messiah, David said, “The Lord said unto my Lord, sit on my right hand.” As a prophet, David foresaw by the Spirit of God that the promise of the Messiah reigning on his throne would not be an earthly enthronement, but a heavenly enthronement, at the right hand of God.
In the gospels, Jesus said: “David himself, speaking by the Holy Spirit, declared: “‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet”‘ (Mark 12:36, See also Matthew 22:41-45).
SECONDLY, notice the next part of the text that Peter quotes from David: “till I make your enemies your footstool.”
These very same words are employed by the author of Hebrews in describing the enthronement of Jesus at the right hand of God (Hebrews 1:13; 10:13) and in 1 Corinthians 15:25-26 the apostle Paul applies them to the exalted Jesus as well.
Also Psalm 110 is the Psalm which testifies that the Messiah would be a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek (v.4). The author of Hebrews expounds on this and tells us that Jesus, the exalted King at the right hand of God, is also our great high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.
The historical Melchizedek (Genesis 14) prefigured Christ as a King and Priest, and not a priest only. Under the Law of Moses one could not be a King and a priest. The priests came only from the tribe of Levi and the Kings were descendants of David from the tribe of Judah.
The writer of Hebrews explains how Jesus, being from the tribe of Judah (the tribe of King David), is qualified to be a priest. He is qualified because His priestly ministry is not earthy (Hebrews 8:4), but heavenly, at the right hand of God where he is now enthroned. ~ See Hebrews 8:1-3
THIRDLY, Notice that David specifically identifies the Messiah as his Lord: “The Lord said to my Lord…”
In Acts 2 Peter says, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made the same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both LORD and Christ” (v.36).
Peter doesn’t tell the people of Israel that Jesus will be Lord when he one day returns. Peter declares that Jesus is Lord and Messiah now, at the right hand of God. The gospel which was preached to house of Israel by the apostles, was not a gospel of a futuristic enthronement of the Messiah, but rather, the declaration of His exaltation now!
Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. ~ Philippians 2:9-11
When he had by himself purged our sins, (He) sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on High… ~ See Hebrews 1:3
But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God is forever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. ~ Hebrews 1:8
I (Paul) Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places. Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all. ~ Ephesians 1:17-23
Notice that Paul says in Ephesians 1 (above), Christ is already enthroned in Heaven above everything in this world and in the world to come, having all things under His feet.
Jesus enthroned at the right hand of God is not a temporary enthronement as he awaits a lesser throne in Jerusalem, Israel. Rather, Jesus entered into his glory after his resurrection (Luke 24:26; John 17:5, 24; Acts 2:33; 3:13) and was enthroned at the right hand of God, where the New Jerusalem is – the true Holy City of God (Hebrews 12:22-24). From there, Christ will reign forever!
When Christ returns he is not taking a lesser throne, for he has been made Higher than the Heavens, in his exaltation (Hebrews 7:26). Jesus reigns forever, being highly exalted at the right hand of God, and in that Majestic power, authority, and glory; He will come again!
THE TEMPLE OF GOD
If Jesus has already entered into his glory, and exalted as King at the right hand of God, what sort of the temple will he build?
First, allow me to point out that the pervasive ideology which states that Jesus will return to occupy a stone and mortar temple, also states it will be built by unbelieving Jews before his return. Many believe that the anti Christ will at some point occupy this temple.
Yet the Word of God unequivocally states that Jesus, and not the Jews, will build God’s temple. Notice again, God’s words to David through the prophet Nathan:
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
According to the Bible, Jesus is the cornerstone, which God has laid in Zion. He is the foundation stone of the true house of God which is built not by man, but by the Spirit of the Living God. The true house of God is built with living stones. (1 Peter 2:5). These living stones are Jews and Gentiles who obey Jesus Christ and abide in Him.
Nowhere in scripture will you find a “rebuilt – man made – temple” of which the Lord Jesus Christ will return to fill with His Glory. The temple which is filled with his glory is the temple which he is building with those who trust in him.
For through him we both (Jew and Gentile) have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens 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 2:18-22
The true temple of God of which Jesus is the foundation, and his followers are the building, is out in the open, loud and clear, revealed in the New Testament. ~ See John 2:19-20; Matthew 21:42; Acts 4:11; 1 Corinthians 3:16 -17; 1 Corinthians 6:19; 2 Corinthians 6:16; Ephesians 2:12-22; 1 Peter 2:5
All man-made structures in scripture, were only types and shadows of the true temple which is in Christ.
The writer of Hebrews tells us emphatically that we who hold to faith in Jesus are Christ’s house!
For this man (Jesus) was counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as he who hath builded the house hath more honour than the house. For every house is builded by some man; but he that built all things is God. And Moses verily was faithful in all his house, as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after; But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end. ~ Hebrews 3:3-6
Stephen testified of this truth in the book of Acts: Howbeit the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet, Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool: what house will ye build me? saith the Lord: or what is the place of my rest? Hath not my hand made all these things? Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. ~ Acts 7:48-51
Stephen’s declaration comes from the words of God through Isaiah the prophet: Thus saith the Lord, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest? For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the Lord: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word. ~ Isaiah 66:1-2
Notice, that in contrast to the words of God, “where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest?” God says, “but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.”
Those to whom God will look are those who have a humble or circumcised heart in the sight of God. The true temple of God is not built with human hands, but with circumcised hearts, and it is this temple that God himself inhabits by his Spirit.
Under the Law, Jerusalem in Israel was the place of worship, but in John 4:21, Jesus made it clear that the time was then near when those who worship God would no longer worship in a physical temple within Israel, but true worshipers will worship God in the Spirit and in truth.
In Philippians 3, the apostle Paul says, “For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.”
While some continue to anticipate a Jewish Temple to be rebuilt (a temple that would only cause unsaved Jews to continue in their rejection of the Messiah should it ever be built) the true Temple of God consisting of Jews and Gentiles is being built on the foundation of Jesus Christ, and this is the holy habitation of God through the Spirit.