The Enjoyment and the Testimony of Temple Conditions - by Keith Petersen
Foundational to Christianity there are, perhaps, no more important truths than those pertaining to temple conditions as set out in Scripture. These truths not only concern the fullest possible enjoyment of our relationship while yet here (and, of course, pre-eminently, in our awaited Heavenly home) with Divine Persons and other Christians but also govern our testimonial path here in this world.
The Holy Spirit records in the Bible from the inception God’s ways in love and grace in relation to a creature created in His image and likeness. As well – since God’s love demands righteousness according to His nature – early on in Genesis 2 any necessary judgments against sin (“but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it; for in the day that thou eatest of it thou shalt certainly die”) are unsparingly set out for our understanding that we have to do with a holy God.
The relationship of God with man is shown as largely individual in the early history of the Bible; however, as soon as God begins to move in relation to taking a people out to Himself, His holiness is made preeminent – Moses is told in Exodus 3 “”Draw not nigh hither: loose thy sandals from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.”
The word “holy” is used over 500 times in the Bible – emphasizing to us that God desires that we be impressed with the realities of all that is encompassed in the abundant use of this word. In Exodus 19 He tells Israel through Moses “ye shall be to me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation.”
The Holy Spirit uses the word “holy” constantly throughout the Book of Exodus as He establishes according to God the state and the manner of life needed in a people that God is taking out from the world to Himself. It is not until this reality is emphasized repeatedly that God, in Leviticus 11, then speaks of His own nature – “For I am Jehovah who brought you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.”
There are two elements distinctly set out in these early Bible chapters: (1) a people in relation to God can only be properly in relation to Him if they are holy and (2) God’s nature demands such a state “for I am holy.”
The writer of Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers is occupied almost entirely with immense detail as to the nature and maintenance of holiness amongst God’s people – the word “holy” is used almost 100 times in these three books. No honest soul could peruse these books and, closing the Bible, decide that God is indifferent as to whether His people is a holy people. The emphasis as to a necessary and detailed holiness is so constant – so repeated – that the soul could only be overwhelmingly impressed with this reality.
God brings out that, not only will He be the God of Israel; but, in Exodus 25 that “they shall make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them” and, directly thereafter, “According to all that I shall shew thee, the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the utensils thereof, even so shall ye make [it] …. And they shall know that I am Jehovah their God, who have brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, to dwell in their midst: I am Jehovah their God.”
Two elements are emphasized here – (1) God intends to dwell among them in a sanctuary and (2) “According to all that I shall shew thee …. even so shall ye make it” – i.e., there is to be no deviation from what God sets out in respect of His tabernacle with man.
When the tabernacle is completed under the hand of Moses – a type of the Lord over God’s house – the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. This must have been amazing to see – the Shekinah glory filling the tabernacle – how impressed would have been every Israelite! This was not a casual occurrence – so immense was the reality that even Moses could not enter in – a man with whom God had talked “face to face, as a man speaks to his friend”.
Subsequently we are told in 1 Chronicles 28 prior to building the house and the temple of God that “David gave to Solomon his son the pattern of the porch, and of its houses, and of its treasuries, and of its upper chambers, and of its inner chambers, and of the house of the mercy-seat; and the pattern of all that he had by the Spirit, of the courts of the house of Jehovah, and of all the chambers round about, for the treasuries of the house of God, and for the treasuries of the dedicated things”. We are to be impressed again that the building of this house is not left to the imagination of man; but, rather, it is all to be according to what suits the mind and nature of God Himself.
When we come to 1 Kings 6 we find that “in the four hundred and eightieth year after the children of Israel were come out of the land of Egypt” Solomon began to build a house for God. The Scripture says that he built the house and finished it “And the word of Jehovah came to Solomon saying, As to this house which thou art building, if thou wilt walk in my statutes, and practise mine ordinances, and keep all my commandments to walk in them, then will I perform my word as to thee which I spoke unto David thy father; and I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will not forsake my people Israel.”
The house – which contained the temple within and the most holy place – represents the ultimate in God's earthly ways at that time with His people Israel. Gold as utilized in the divine system invariably represents what is of God Himself, and it says “Solomon overlaid the house within with pure gold, and shut off the oracle in front with chains of gold, and overlaid it with gold. And the whole house he overlaid with gold, the whole house entirely; also the whole altar that was by the oracle he overlaid with gold.” It is to be noted that the gold is “pure” – why should the Holy Spirit emphasize this fact? Just this – that nothing that would detract from the purity of what was in relation to and representative of God was to be allowed.
Speaking entirely from a moral and spiritual perspective – this house of God would have unmistakably spoken to the mind and the heart of the Israelite as to the greatness of – and, the great holiness of – God Himself. The great and costly stones that formed the foundation, the cedar and cypress (our humanity) overlaid with gold (i.e., the Christian clothed with the worth of the Christ), the laver (necessary to wash any soil of the day away before we come into God’s presence), the great sea (God’s attitude towards and desire that all men should be saved), the altar of burnt offering (the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross) and the altar of incense (think how fragrant the Christian is to God as made a son in the likeness of Christ), the holiest of holies within, the great pillars without (Paul writes in 1 Timothy 3 “God's house, which is [the] assembly of [the] living God, [the] pillar and base of the truth.”). What a house it was! and, again, we see that God’s satisfaction was such that the “the glory of Jehovah had filled the house of Jehovah.”
It is noteworthy that, before the glory of God filled the house, “king Solomon, and all the assembly of Israel that were assembled to him, [who were] with him before the ark, sacrificed sheep and oxen, which could not be counted nor numbered for multitude.” This is telling since it shows that Solomon and all Israel had appropriated – shown in the immensity of this sacrifice – the truth that the introduction of God’s habitation with His people must be prefaced with the underlying and sober reality that all that is of the natural man morally must be entirely removed through death. For us that is accomplished through “the death of the cross” – for the Israelite (looking on typically, of course, to that same cross) it was accomplished through the sacrificial system instituted through Moses. The nature of the sacrifice at that time under the hand of Solomon – an incalculable number – is to emphasize upon our hearts and minds the immensity of the reality that one order of man of whom “every imagination of the thoughts of his heart [is] only evil continually” through death has been removed in view of another order – as to which the apostle writes “that which has been born of God cannot sin” (1 John 3:9). Romans 8 tells us that “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and of death” – it is no longer a process of law as under the tabernacle system but, now, a nature in and through the Holy Spirit in which the righteous requirements of the law are fulfilled and satisfied.
When we come to our dispensation – the Christian dispensation – we find that the same elements and principles as set out in the preceding paragraphs are in place – i.e., God is holy, He capacitates His people to be holy and He desires to dwell amongst them. The OT gives us the much detail in instruction and principle – embracing the law and the prophets as a guide for God’s earthly people. When we come to the NT it is a different - we might say a much more settled - matter evidently in God’s mind (the word “holy” is used less than half as much in the New Testament as it is in the Old Testament) as He has introduced through new birth and the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit a new nature entirely capable of fulfilling all that is in His mind in respect of our holiness as His people. God Himself has accomplished our holiness - He has made us a holy people - "yourselves also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 2:5). We are a heavenly people; not, an earthly people. For the Israelite it was dwelling under the vine and the fig tree (Micah 4:4) – when we come to Christianity it is “seek the things [which are] above, where the Christ is, sitting at [the] right hand of God: have your mind on the things [that are] above, not on the things [that are] on the earth” (Colossians 3).
Accordingly, Heaven is shown to be the determinate calling of the Christian. It says as to the Lord, “who has also ascended up above all the heavens, that he might fill all things” (Ephesians 4) and it says as to the Christian estate “raised [us] up together, and has made [us] sit down together in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2) – this being, morally, shown to be a present reality. Heaven is our home - earth is merely the place of our present sojourn.
When we come to the use of the word “temple” in the New Testament it occurs 50% more than in the Old Testament – certainly an indication by the Holy Spirit as to the importance of this word for us as Christians. The temple is no longer a dwelling constructed out of earthly materials for a holy God – it is, rather, that “ye also are built together for a habitation of God in the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:22). The temple is not only the Church as it is composed of “living stones”; but, the Holy Spirit goes a step farther and, addressing the Christian individually says “Do ye not know that your body is [the] temple of the Holy Spirit which [is] in you, which ye have of God; and ye are not your own?” (1 Corinthians 6:19).
This is wonderful language. As Christians we, generally speaking, undoubtedly only feebly apprehend our place before God – here is language of the most elevating level. The Shekinah glory when it filled the temple in the OT prevented the consecrated priests from entering in to do their service. Now, in lovely contrast, the Church itself – a living organism derived from the Christ – is the dwelling – a vessel not only suitable in every way for the presence of a holy God but seen in Revelation 21 as “coming down out of the heaven from God, having the glory of God.”
This is rich language indeed. To what heights are we lifted! Into what intimacy with an entirely holy God are we brought! We see that the Church forms the pinnacle of God’s thoughts in relation to His created universe. The more we dwell upon these ineffable thoughts – the more we contemplate and understand the glory of God – the more we realize the immeasurably elevated position that God has had in mind from before the commencement of time and space for those He is pleased to call His Sons. There is no greater place in the universe for ourselves as men – we know this to be true because Christ is Himself called the “first-fruits” (1 Corinthians 15) and we, in like manner, are a “certain first-fruits of his creatures” (James 1:18). Similarly, the Lord speaks to the Father in John 17 “that they may be all one, as thou, Father, [art] in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us …. I in them and thou in me, that they may be perfected into one.”
This brings into view, reflexively, our testimonial path here. If we are brought into – and fit for through new birth and the everlasting, indwelling capacity of the Holy Spirit – such a place of utter holiness that befits a God Who “is light, and in him is no darkness at all” – what is our place while yet here on this earth but to stand in the testimonial power of a heavenly people? Are we to maintain temple conditions in our path here in the midst of a world “that lies in the wicked one”? Surely. Are we to reduce our Christian calling by casually mingling in the highways and byways of life here with a world that in its moral darkness refused to “apprehend the light” of Christ and hung Him on the Cross? Hardly.
The language of 2 Corinthians 6 is so specific in this respect – it does us well to quote the entire section: “Be not diversely yoked with unbelievers; for what participation [is there] between righteousness and lawlessness? or what fellowship of light with darkness? and what consent of Christ with Beliar, or what part for a believer along with an unbeliever? and what agreement of God's temple with idols? for ye are [the] living God's temple; according as God has said, I will dwell among them, and walk among [them]; and I will be their God, and they shall be to me a people. Wherefore come out from the midst of them, and be separated, saith [the] Lord, and touch not [what is] unclean, and I will receive you”.
This language is entirely aligned with the language pertaining to the tabernacle system in the Old Testament – that is, separation from the peoples of the land and, as a people to be holy in relation to their holy God, to touch not what is unclean. A clear understanding according to Scripture of the elevating truths of our place as God’s holy people serves to deliver us from an unholy world. Of course, we have our day-to-day lives – schooling, household affairs, business and careers – however, we are so very clearly called upon to morally walk separately from a world-system of men that runs to a “sink of corruption” (1 Peter 4:4).
The movements of the natural man governed by the mind of the flesh are catalogued by the Holy Spirit in Galatians 5 – “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are fornication, uncleanness, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, strifes, jealousies, angers, contentions, disputes, schools of opinion, envyings, murders, drunkennesses, revels, and things like these; as to which I tell you beforehand, even as I also have said before, that they who do such things shall not inherit God's kingdom.”
Most of these works are evident – fornication, sorcery, murders, etc.; however, some can be more subtle. For example, the idolatrous systems of men are so clearly in evidence in a world of natural entertainment including the performing arts, music, sports and other pursuits - none could honestly argue that these systems and the people therein have not been made into idols for men. Indeed, anything here can become an idol – an unholy greed in business, an endless pursuit of education, and much else. All this is intended by Satan – the wicked one in “whom the whole world lies” (1 John 5:19) – to divert man – including Christians – from their full and proper relationship with God. To this end the apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15 “Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.” Ultimately, any movement here by man that is governed by the mind of the flesh is against God, since "the mind of the flesh [is] death; but the mind of the Spirit life and peace. Because the mind of the flesh is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God; for neither indeed can it be: and they that are in flesh cannot please God." This is sobering language.
The truth is that the nearer oneself is to another in any right relationship the better is understood what is due to the integrity of that relationship – and this is to be realized in a preeminent way in our relationship with Divine Persons and then, in reflex, in our relations with other Christians and, lastly, with men at large. It has been well said that “righteousness is our leader” (see 2 Timothy 2:22 – “ pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace,” where righteousness is set first) – righteousness is simply doing what is right according to the mind of God as set out in the Scripture.
The question might arise as to how we can possibly while here fulfill righteousness and holiness as suitable to – and, according to – God’s nature. The answer to this is seen in 1 John 3:9 – “Whoever has been begotten of God does not practise sin, because his seed abides in him, and he cannot sin, because he has been begotten of God” and, further – in its practical application – in Galatians 5:16 – “Walk in [the] Spirit, and ye shall no way fulfil flesh's lust.”
The joy of the Christian is proper association with Christ and His people. David could write “One [thing] have I asked of Jehovah, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of Jehovah all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of Jehovah, and to inquire [of him] in his temple.” The reflex to our joy as experienced in the fullest proper association with Christ is then our testimony to men. The capability for the fulfillment of our relationship with Divine Persons while yet here is through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit - the power for it is fidelity to Christ - "If ye love me, keep my commandments" (John 14:15) and the Lord "is with you while ye are with him" (2 Chronicles 15:2).
When the Queen of Sheba saw the glory of Solomon, and “all Solomon's wisdom, and the house that he had built, and the food of his table, and the deportment of his servants, and the order of service of his attendants, and their apparel, and his cupbearers, and his ascent by which he went up to the house of Jehovah, there was no more spirit in her.”
Let us present the testimony of the temple so that, as with the Queen of Sheba, one will “falling upon [his] face, he will do homage to God, reporting that God is indeed amongst you.” The glory of the testimony for Christians is to present the glory of God – “Because [it is] the God who spoke that out of darkness light should shine who has shone in our hearts for the shining forth of the knowledge of the glory of God in [the] face of [Jesus] Christ.” Amen.