Part 1 Preview: For years most teachers have taught that the Assembly (Church) is a Spiritual Temple, and that the Messiah will return to it at His “Second Coming”. Has this belief caused us to read over many startling Scriptures about the end time and the return of the LORD and His Christ? This article examines beliefs that may have caused us to miss the dramatic significance of the sequence of events described in the book of Revelation.
Among the commandment keeping people of Elohim (God) today, there has been much misunderstanding concerning exactly what the “temple” is. It is hoped that this article will help to clarify what Elohim tells us in His word concerning this matter. Prophecy will become clearer than ever before, and one’s faith may even be strengthened. But before elaborating about the temple, there is another matter that needs to be addressed first.
What is Elohim’s deepest desire? Many possible answers come to mind, but there is one single desire that is undeniable, and when understood, puts the whole Bible in proper perspective. What is it?
When a man and woman marry, almost always, one of their deepest desires is to have children. Some want their name to be carried on, some want more hands to help work, and some simply want a family of their own. Of course, there are many other reasons for people to want children. In this regard, we are much like Elohim, our wants and desires, when uncorrupted, can be equated to Elohim’s own. We are made in the likeness and image of our Father. We can and should have personality traits, and goals, and ideas, and hopes, and desires, and on and on, just like His. Is it strange to consider that we could have some of the same, or at least similar, attitudes and desires as our Father, the Creator? Human “families” actually reflect a “pattern of Elohim” given to us by our Creator Father. He created the idea of family first and we just naturally follow the plan since we are made in His image and likeness. Although many people disregard or even destroy their own families, many other people desire a family and are committed to it above all distractions, influences, and impediments. Loving fathers and mothers are often even willing to die for family or children. That would surely qualify as a deep desire on their part, would it not?
Family is Elohim’s deepest desire. Their plan jeopardized everything for the opportunity to have a family. Elohim chose for himself one particular family, the family we know of as Israel. He loves them. He punishes them. He blesses them. He fights for them, He even offered up His only born Son to die for them! Look at Exodus 4:22 and Jeremiah 31:1,9,33. They will be examined in more detail later, but it should be perfectly clear who the sons of Elohim are. Many understand that the Bible was written to Israel, about Israel and for Israel. Could God’s desires be expressed any plainer? Elohim looks forward to the day that He will be able to dwell with, and in, Israel. In the future, obedience and blessings will be a way of life in Israel, and love will be the basis of all decisions and actions. The future “Israel of Elohim” will follow in their father’s footsteps, as did Elohim’s own son. Those people who comprise the Body of Christ have a place in this deepest of all desires, they are the “firstfruits” of Elohim, but even that is for the purpose which Elohim has planned for the redemption of Israel. Now, let us begin to see just “what is the temple.”
It is indisputable that the “Temple” in ancient Israel was a physical building, which in the case of Solomon’s Temple housed the glory of the Lord [Yehovah] [actually: Yehovah] Elohim. More specifically though, what does the temple refer to in the Greek scriptures (New Testament)? Is it a “spiritual” temple made of spirit, or is it “physical”. Is there some other explanation? Is there only one temple spoken of in the “latter days”, or is there more than one? Are we to expect a temple to be built on or near the temple mount before, or after the return of Elohim and His Christ? How many temples are spoken of in the Greek scriptures? Does the temple always refer to the same thing, or different things? Precisely what is the temple that Jesus Christ will be returning to? Is the “church” that temple or is it a building? If we are servants of the Most High Elohim, then it would be logical that we should want to know for certain, shouldn’t we? It is our intent to provide you with enough information, in this article, to be able to answer these questions for yourself.
Today Bible students are “finding” the “church” throughout many of the prophecies in the Hebrew scriptures (Old Testament). Many claim that Elohim has directed these various prophecies at the “church” and that they are to be somehow applied “spiritually”. Did Elohim really mean to direct His ancient prophecies for the “end-time” at the “church”? The first step in making these ancient prophecies apply to the church requires making the church a “spiritual temple”. Is it true? Is the church a “spiritual temple”? Another step is to substitute the “church” into the other prophecies directed at Israel, Judah, etc. Thus making any prophecy for Israel, etc. automatically “dual”. Is this legitimate? Is the church a “spiritual temple” and are the many nations and people to whom Elohim has previously directed His Word, now just a “partner” in prophecy along with “the church”? If the temple is really the temple, and so many temple scriptures are misapplied, wouldn’t the error extract a high cost at some point, not the least of which is a lack of understanding the Truth of Elohim?
Let’s begin with a look at what many people today have traditionally considered to be the “temple”. In the book, Mystery of the Ages, it states on page 202 of the paperback version, that “The CHURCH is the spiritual Body of Christ—not a secular or worldly organization, club or institution.” Later, on page 203, it adds, “The Church, then, is to grow into a HOLY TEMPLE— the spiritual TEMPLE to which Christ shall come—even as he came to a material temple of stone and metals and wood the first time.” This represents the feelings and beliefs of many who call themselves “Christian” today. In fact, most denominations, in what is called Christendom, maintain that the “church” is presently a “spiritual temple”, and that this is “part of their doctrine”, as they would phrase it. The scriptures which are most often used to support this premise are found in John 2:21; 1 Corinthians. 3:16 and 6:19; 2 Corinthians 6:16 and Ephestians 2:21-22. These quotations, along with the scriptures just cited, essentially represent the thinking of many, maybe even most of Elohim’s commandment keeping people in this age, and this is exactly as many had been taught.
To determine whether or not this teaching is scripturally correct we must first review the scriptures referenced as “proof” of this “spiritual” temple. The first scripture is John 2:21. To understand this “proof” we must begin in verse 13 for the context and the story flow.
13-22 And the Jew’s Passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem, 14 And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting: 15 And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables; 16 And he said unto them that sold doves, “Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house a house of merchandise.” 17 And his disciples remembered that it was written, THE ZEAL OF THINE HOUSE HAS EATEN ME UP. [Psalms 69:9] 18 Then answered the Jew’s and said unto him, What sign show you unto us, seeing that you do these things? 19 Jesus answered and said unto them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and will you rear it up in three days? 21 But he spoke of the temple of his body. 22 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.
Jesus was very much affected by the physical actions of physical people in a physical temple. The physical actions of the moneychangers and animal sellers revealed a spiritual problem, or perhaps better stated, a spiritual deficiency. Then, in verse 18, after He had “cleaned house”, so to speak, the Jews asked Him who He thought He was that He would think that it was His duty to do what He had done. The Jew’s asked for a sign from Jesus to prove that He had the authority to “clean house”. Christ’s response to their request was to offer an “encrypted” prophecy to them inferring that His body would be resurrected three days after his death. Neither the Jews, nor the disciples, realized that He was referring to His own body as the temple, which would be raised in three days.
So let’s ask the question, does this scripture support or prove that the temple is “spiritual”? The temple Christ referred to was His own body. His body would be destroyed in death. What is spiritual in a dead body? A body is physical if it can die. Christ died. Therefore His temple was dead and ceased to exist for three days. Verse 21 states that “he spoke of the temple of his body”. In verse 19 He said, “Destroy this temple”, meaning “kill this body”, clearly demonstrating that this temple, His body, could be killed and die. There is no indication here that the temple (His body) was spiritual, but rather that it was physical and mortal.
Secondly, after His resurrection, He had his body back. But what body was it? Was it still a temporal body? Yes, it was the same one that had been destroyed and lay dead in the tomb for three days and three nights. That physical temple had been killed and ceased to be a temple for 72 hours. Then, in an instant, Elohim put the Spirit back into that dead body and it was resurrected to life. But remember, Jesus had not yet been glorified. Later that same day He was seen again, and by this time He had received His glorified body, meaning that His temple could no longer be destroyed! In John 2:21, there is absolutely no support for a purely spiritual temple. Let’s look at another scripture used as “proof” of a spiritual temple.
1 Corinthians 3:16-17 Know you not that you are the temple of Elohim, and that the Spirit of Elohim dwells in you? 17 If any man defile the temple of Elohim, him shall Elohim destroy; for the temple of Elohim is holy, which temple you are.
Here again, the temple is the body and it can be defiled, which means to be destroyed. However, we are holy, as well as a temple if the Spirit of Elohim dwells in us. So, what makes our body a temple? It is the Spirit of Elohim dwelling in us that makes it a holy temple of Elohim, or Elohim’s temple. Thus far, nothing makes the temple spiritual. Every indication is that our body (a temple) is physical and mortal, but with “spirit” dwelling in it.
The next scripture is similar:
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 What? know you not that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, which is in you, which you have of Elohim, and you are not your own? 20 For you are bought with a price: therefore glorify Elohim in your body, and in your spirit, which are Elohim’s.
This verse restates much of what we have already covered, but then it adds a bit more. We are not to pollute our physical body with improper, inappropriate, or unlawful physical materials because we, who have Elohim’s Spirit dwelling in us, no longer own our own body. We belong to Elohim and are sanctified (set apart, vs. 11) to Elohim for HIS holy purpose. Our body is a member of Christ (vs. 15), and we are now one spirit when we are joined to the Lord (vs. 16-17). Is our body “one spirit” ? The Bible says, “he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.” What is it that has been joined “unto the Lord” making any such individual, “one” spirit? The answer is found in verse 20, “For you are bought with a price: therefore glorify Elohim in your body, and in your spirit, which are Elohim’s.” Elohim’s Spirit does not join with our body; it joins with our spirit, the spirit of man dwelling in him. Our spirit dwells and exists in our body, but when Elohim puts His spirit in us, it joins with our spirit and we become begotten of Elohim and united with Elohim through His spirit. Thus, our spirit becomes Elohim’s property and then in turn, our physical body becomes Elohim’s body, or dwelling place, or temple, which now becomes Elohim’s property as well.
But wait, those who say the temple is spiritual say Elohim is really referring to the mind (as opposed to “brain”) as being the temple of Elohim, and that it is spirit. They say the temple of Elohim is spiritual after all. My response is to refer back to John 2:19-21 when Christ said he would raise up the temple of His body. If the temple is only the mind of the individual, why resurrect the body? Why not just resurrect the mind? Why bother to mention that the body is the temple at all, if it is in the mind or spirit of man? In addition, how could Elohim’s Spirit be the temple that His Spirit dwells in? Since we become “one” spirit when our spirit is joined with Elohim’s spirit, the “mind” or spirit of man cannot be the temple because this “one” spirit cannot dwell in itself. The spirit requires something to dwell in, and that just happens to be within our physical bodies. Do not even Satan and his demons look for “bodies” to dwell in?
Now, with I Corinthians 6:19-20 clearly in mind ( ... “your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, which is in you ...”), let’s add one final point from John 2:21 But he spake of the temple of his body. According to the Companion Bible, the word translated “of” in “of the Temple”, is “peri”, and it means “concerning”. The second “of” from “of his body” means “that is to say”, or “consisting of”. Therefore, verse 21, restated reads: “But he spoke concerning the temple, which is to say (or consisting of), his body. This matches perfectly with 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 and also eliminates the possible notion that the mind is the temple. So, just what kind of temple are we? Are we a “spiritual” temple, or a “physical” temple housing spirit? Also, is Elohim’s church the temple Jesus is going to return to? Let’s continue.
Next examine 2 Corinthians 6:16. This scripture has to do with being unequally yoked with unbelievers and includes verses 11-18 at a minimum. Verses 16-18 state:
16-18 And what agreement has the temple of Elohim with idols? For you are the temple of the living Elohim; as Elohim has said, I WILL DWELL IN THEM, AND WALK IN THEM; AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE. 17 Wherefore COME OUT FROM AMONG THEM, AND BE YOU SEPARATE, says the Lord, AND TOUCH NO UNCLEAN THING; AND I WILL RECEIVE YOU, 18 AND I WILL BE A FATHER UNTO YOU, AND YOU SHALL BE MY SONS AND DAUGHTERS, says the Lord Almighty.
Verse 16 is taken from Leviticus 26:11-12, and is a promise directed to physical Israel which will soon be fulfilled by physical Israel. Leviticus 26 also discusses not becoming yoked to idols, keeping the Lord’s [Yehovah’s] Sabbaths, walking in the statutes and commandments, and maintaining reverence for His sanctuary (see also Jer.31:33; 32:38; Ezekiel 37:26-27). Since Elohim does not change and Elohim is not a respecter of persons, this promise is available to anyone who will comply with the requirements and conditions specified by Elohim. It means that those who are begotten of Elohim now can meet these requirements and, in deed, are obligated to do so. Elohim will then dwell in them as previously covered.
17 I heard another voice from the sky saying, “Come out of her My people, so that you don’t participate in her sins, and don’t ‘suffer from’ her plagues.
This can only be referring to the House of Israel, that was thrust into the Great Tribulation and taken into captivity by the Assyrians. The time frame is before the millennium. Why else would it be necessary for Yehovah to go before them, and the Elohim of Israel to be their rear guard (Isaiah 52:12 - all the same Elohim)? There will be no threat to Israel as the millennium begins. Furthermore, since the plagues have not struck yet, there is a threat to Israel from the Beast power, and perhaps even Gog and Magog, at the time of this re-gathering since none of them will have been destroyed yet. So, just as with ancient Israel, while coming out of Egypt, Israel will have the pillar of smoke and fire to protect them. Elohim does not change.
Verse 18 is taken primarily from two places. First, notice Jeremiah 31:1 and 9:
1 At that time, declares Yehovah, “I’ll be the Elohim of all the clans of Israel, and they’ll be My people.
9 They’ll come with tears of joy, praying as I bring them back. I’ll lead them beside streams of water, in a straight path so they won’t stumble, because I’m a Father to Israel, and Ephraim is My firstborn.
Next, consider Exodus 4:22:
22 Then you can tell Pharaoh, “This is what Yehovah said, Israel is My firstborn son,
Again we see that the House of Israel is the son of [Yehovah] Elohim, and He will tabernacle (dwell) with them, and ultimately, in them. Physical human bodies will become temples for Elohim then, just as those called out and begotten of Elohim are now. Even in 2 Corinthians 6:16, the temple is to avoid idols and told (vs. 17) not to “touch” the unclean. Touching is another physical act. There continues to be the physical vessel housing the spirit.
Webster’s defines “spiritual” as follows: 1) of, relating to, or consisting of spirit: INCORPOREAL. Webster’s defines “incorporeal”: 1) not corporeal: having no material body or form.
Nothing we have seen so far “proves” that the “temple” today is “spiritual”. At best it is ambiguous, to outright disproof, of that statement/ position / doctrine. What has been proven is that the physical body becomes a temple for Elohim when that body houses Elohim’s Holy Spirit. But are these physical bodies of true believers the “temple” that Christ is going to return to? (At this point I would mention that this article is not intended to discuss just ‘who’ is returning. Revelation 11:5, Acts 4:26 and other scriptures leave no room for doubt that Elohim the Father is coming as well as “His Christ”!)
Are there any scriptures that would help to clear up this “temple” question? Actually, there are several relevant scriptures. One in particular affects both the understanding of the “end time” temple and prophecy. Zechariah 6:9-15 discusses the crowning of Joshua. This is the Joshua who was the high priest and served with Zerubbabel. He was crowned as a king-priest, at the instruction of [Yehovah], through Zechariah. This had never been done before and was not legal in Israel. It had already cost one king of Israel his life when he tried to do it previously. Verse 12 states:
12 Thus speaks the Lord [Yehovah] of hosts, saying, Behold the man whose name is The Branch; and he shall grow up out of his place and he shall build the temple of the Lord [Yehovah].
Now, some think that the man (#376, ish in Hebrew) called The Branch is just a reference to Jesus (Joshua is the English name as translated from the Hebrew scriptures. More technically it might be better written as, “Yehoshua”, but there are a number of accepted spellings). Some think that this refers to Zerubbabel, a few others think that this refers to the person being crowned, Joshua the king-priest. The answer to this will be covered at another time, but whoever the man is, he shall “build the temple of the Lord” (verse 12,13).
Keep in mind that the construction of the temple, at the time of this prophecy, had been stalled for 14 years. Zerubbabel had built and finished the foundation of the temple 14 years earlier. It took two years to build the foundation, then difficulties were encountered and the construction of the temple ceased. Later, Zechariah and Haggai came on the scene and told Joshua and Zerubbabel to get back to work. They complied and the construction of the “second” temple was resumed.
So, is this temple prophecy about a spiritual temple or a physical one? Notice verse 14. It states that this “elaborate crown” is for a memorial “in the temple” of [Yehovah]. How could this crown, then or now, be for a memorial in some kind of a “spiritual temple”? This crown was to be a memorial; physically located inside a physical building, which is just what Joshua was in the process of building. Then verse 15 adds: “they” that are far off shall come and build in the temple of the Lord .... People or “they”, who are “far off” is in reference to time, not distance. Therefore, in the “end time” “they” would “build” just as Joshua was to build a temple. If this is just referring to spirit-begotten humans or the “church” as being the temple, how would this “they” (humans) build in others (humans) the temple of [Yehovah]? Can this be “spiritualized” away? They were constructing a physical temple then. The word of [Yehovah] concerned the structure of a physical temple. Are we somehow to presume that this is some kind of a coded message to the priesthood in the end time to build a group of humans together (a church?) to form a spiritual temple for the Christ to return to? Once again, these scriptures give no evidence whatsoever to support such a premise. Everything thus far, in type and anti-type, specifies a physical building. But let’s continue.
Haggai had much to say about the temple. Haggai 1:2 states:
Thus says the Lord [Yehovah] of hosts, saying, this people say: the time is not come, the time that the Lord’s house should be built.
At that time, approximately 519 BC, the building of the temple was stalled as mentioned previously. However, Joshua and others had built their own houses, and may have even used some of the wood paneling originally intended for the temple. The word “ceiled”, in verse 4, means paneled, so it would appear that their homes were quite nice. Remember, too, these leaders, Joshua, Zerubbabel, and several others were of royal lineage, and by that date Joshua was the high priest and Zerubbabel was the governor.
If these verses in Haggai are a prophecy for the “end time”, then the analogy, and spiritualizing of this into being the church, doesn’t quite fit. How could “people”, who supposedly are the temple, be accused by Elohim of not thinking it was time for the temple (church) to be built yet? If the temple is the “Church of God”, then we all know that we need to grow (be built) in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ (2 Peter 3:18), not to mention many more scriptures, which apply here. The emphasis in Haggai 1:2 is on timing. The only way timing could be a problem for anyone today, or in the “end time”, would be if they did not think there was going to actually be a temple built on Mt. Zion. Even today, which is not quite the “end time”, the majority of Elohim’s people are not expecting a physical temple to be built. They understand that any temple not built by and through Elohim’s direction would not be “His” temple. It would only be a Jewish temple, or the temple of whomever else might be the builder. Because these Christians think that the temple is spiritual, they do not even consider the possibility that an “end time” temple might be built by servants of the Most High Elohim. These misunderstandings occur because so many people believe that the temple scriptures are spiritual rather than physical in fulfillment.
For reference purposes, we will consider the “end time” period to be the last seven, or possibly eight, years of this age leading up to the Kingdom. It contains two periods of 1,260 days each, with the Great Tribulation being the second 1260 day period. Virtually all “end time”, “in that day”, and “latter days” prophecies are fulfilled within this period, and most of it pertains to the “Day of the Lord”. Misunderstanding what and when the “end time” is, leads to making the “church” the focal point of end time prophecy, rather than Israel. Some will agree with this assessment while others will disagree. Neither position negates the main thrust of this article. If you have material evidence that would allow for a different “end time” time span or sequence, please forward it to us. It is our belief that at this time in church history, no single church “organization” or individual has everything 100% correct, but several have a piece or pieces. Therefore we are open to considering any well thought out presentation and would encourage such.
Notice Haggai 2:3-9 Who is left among you that saw this house in her first glory? and how do you see it now? is it not in your eyes in comparison of it as nothing? 4 Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, says the Lord; and be strong, O Joshua, son of Josedech, the high priest; and be strong all you people of the land, says the Lord, and work: for I am with you, says the Lord of hosts: 5 According to the word that I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt, so my spirit remains among you: fear you not. 6 For thus says the Lord of hosts; Yet once it is a little while, and I will shake the heaven, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land; 7 And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come: and I will fill this house [the temple] with glory, says the Lord of hosts. 8 The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, says the Lord of hosts. 9 The glory of this latter house [the latter temple] shall be greater than of the former, says the Lord of hosts: and in this place will I give peace, says the Lord of hosts.
Numerous points can be made here, many of which have already been discussed in other scriptures, but consider this one. In verse 7, [Yehovah] (the “Lord”) said that He would fill this house with glory. The Shekinah [not a Biblical term] glory never filled the second temple. It did fill the first temple (1 Kings 8:11). It will fill the last temple (verse 7), but that time is not until the time that He, [Yehovah] (or YHWH), shakes the world. When does He do that, is it not during the “end time”?! The way that the first temple was filled with glory was when YHWH was inside of the physical temple structure. He promised that that house would receive His presence once more, but it never happened in the structure that was built by the captives who returned from Babylon. That structure no longer exists. How is YHWH going to keep His word? He equated the house of 1 Kings 8 with the “second” temple, in verse 3, when He asked, “Who is left among you that saw this house in her first glory?” Both are not only considered to be His house, but both are considered to be the same house according to this scripture. Therefore, any new structure built at His direction / command will automatically be considered to be His house, and in turn the same house as well. The Ezekiel temple [described in chapters 40-48] that will be built on Mt. Zion, in the end time, will be [Yehovah’s] house and He will enter that house/ temple and His glory will then fill it, just as He has promised! So, which temple, 1st, 2nd, or 3rd, does not matter. YHWH said that He “would,” in the future, fill His house / temple with his glory. It did not have to happen then. Verses 6 and 7 have not yet been fulfilled. The glory does have to fill the temple and will in the “end time” temple, when verses 6 and 7 are also fulfilled.