The Temple of the Living God

“Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” —I Corinthians 3:16

IN THE SCRIPTURAL use of the term ‘temple’ as applied to the church of Christ, we have a very meaningful symbolism which helps us more clearly understand the divine purpose to bless all mankind through the church. The symbolism takes its meaning from God’s dealings with typical Israel, first, in connection with the Tabernacle in the wilderness—a temporary arrangement—and later, through the Temple erected by Solomon. Concerning the Tabernacle which Moses was instructed to build, the Lord said, “There I will meet with the children of Israel.” (Exod. 29:43) This also was true later in connection with the Temple—it was the meeting place between God and Israel.

In speaking of this typical lesson of the Temple, the Scriptures give us two applications—one to individual members of the church now, and the other to the glorified church beyond the veil. Both of these applications are based upon the type, for there was the preparation of the individual stones of the Temple, as well as the completed Temple which was made from the assembling of these stones.

As is true of all material things when used as symbols or types of spiritual truths, the application is not perfect in every respect. In the case of the antitypical stones, for example, now being prepared to form that glorious antitypical temple of God, the Lord is dealing with each one of these as a temple, even while being prepared for a part in the great temple of the future. This, of course, was not true of the stones which formed the typical Temple.

It is the individual application of the temple symbolism which Paul used when he wrote, “Know ye not 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? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.” (I Cor. 6:19,20) Notice the emphasis the apostle puts on the reason for our being considered the temple of God—“Therefore glorify God.” God is not dwelling in his people in order to glorify them, but rather that through them he might be glorified.

Notice also the apostle’s words, “Ye are not your own.” If we have been brought to God through Christ, and have presented ourselves to him through full consecration, and he has given us his Spirit, we should realize that we belong to God, and should therefore be fully devoted to his service—the service of his temple. Judging from observation and experience, this seems to be one of the most difficult lessons for the Lord’s truth-enlightened people to fully grasp.

Just to know the Lord as he reveals himself to us through the divine plan of the ages is so wonderful that there is an inclination to feel that this ecstasy of joy which comes through a knowledge of the truth is the end of our being called by God, but this is not so. We have been called for a purpose, and that purpose is to be used by God as his channel of blessing to others—ultimately to the whole world—and the temple symbolism is one of the Lord’s ways of impressing this truth upon our hearts and minds.

Every faithful, consecrated child of God is a temple for him, a royal residence, as it were, where he can meet with and bestow his blessings upon others—a habitation of God through the Spirit. How precious is the thought, how great the condescension of our God in thus honoring his chosen ones who believe and trust in him and are fully consecrated to his will and service!

While God is pleased to use each fully consecrated follower of the Master as a temple even now, it is well to remember that we are also in process of preparation as stones to be used in the glorious temple of the future. We are being chiseled and polished in God’s great stone-yard, and the surroundings are far from glorious. The church in the present life, like her Lord, is disesteemed in the world, and persecuted. But this environment is best suited to accomplish the divine purpose in us.

The cutting and polishing of a stone in preparation for its place in a building suggests the trials—the hard, cutting experiences—of a Christian, which, by God’s providence are shaping him for the special place in the temple for which he was called. If we keep this in mind it will help us to “bear whate’er may come of joy or sorrow.” And all of us need much shaping and much polishing.

It is well to remember this in our association with one another. As we look upon other stones which the Lord is shaping for a place in his future temple, it may be difficult to see any beauty in them; and as they look upon us, the same is true of us. But the important thing is that all have been chosen by the Lord, and are being worked upon by him. Let us then endeavor to see in one another something of what the Lord sees. In this way we will be able to work with the Lord in helping one another, rather than against him by accusing and condemning our brethren.

The Chief Cornerstone

As it is with the various members of the body of Christ, so it is with the ‘stones’ in the antitypical temple—God sets each one in whatever position his wisdom decrees to be best. (I Cor. 12:18) Nor has he revealed what that position will be—at least, not for very many of the ‘stones’. To the overcomers in one of the seven churches of Revelation, the Lord said, “I will make [you] a pillar in the temple of my God,” but we doubt if this promise is meant to identify the exact position of any of the Lord’s people in that glorious future temple.—Rev. 3:12

However, the Apostle Paul tells us that Jesus is the “chief corner stone” in this spiritual temple now in process of being built. (Eph. 2:20-22) Jesus is also referred to as the “head stone” which was refused by the builders. (Ps. 118:22) It would be difficult to determine which stone in the foundation of an ordinary building should be considered the ‘chief corner stone’, and it would be even more difficult to understand how a foundation stone could also be a head stone.

The blending of these two thoughts suggests that probably the symbolism intended is that of a pyramid-shaped building. In such a case we can readily see why the head stone would be rejected by the builders, for it would not fit anywhere else in the structure. Only the master builder would know the place it was to occupy. Jesus was rejected because Israel, those whom the Lord was using to prepare and test him, did not know the plan of the building as designed by the divine architect. But what great rejoicing there will be when he is recognized as the head of the corner!—Matt. 21:42; Mark 12:10; Acts 4:11

The fact that the head stone in this glorious antitypical temple is also referred to as the chief corner stone suggests that this building is being erected in heaven, not on earth, and that we as living stones are being “built up in him.” (Phil. 3:20, RSV; Col. 2:7) This means, too, that the influences by which we are being shaped to conform to the head stone are of heavenly origin.

While the tools that do the actual shaping of our characters for the place designed for us in the temple of God are the various experiences of life—the bitter and the sweet—they are all being directed by the Master Builder, who is shaping us to be a part of that wonderful temple of which Jesus is both the chief foundation stone and the head stone. May we cooperate faithfully with the Master Builder by continuing to set our affection on things above.—Col. 3:1,2

Without Sound of Hammer

In connection with the typical temple the record tells us that the stones and timbers were all prepared in advance—some distance, apparently, from where the temple was built—and brought to the building site where they were put together without sound of a hammer. (I Kings 6:7) The antitype of this is that the chiseling and polishing of the individual ‘stones’ of the temple are all done while the saints are still on this side of the veil. It is also during this preparatory age that the place each one is to occupy in the temple is determined by the Master Builder.

This, as shown in the type, leaves the work of the first resurrection and the glorification of the church with her Lord, a very quiet one—a work that goes on unnoticed and unknown by all except those immediately concerned with it. This is one reason that the world is not aware of what is, even now, going on.

But the Lord’s people themselves are not in darkness. They know the significance of the time in which they are living. They know that already the sleeping saints have been raised and have joined the heavenly ranks. They know, too, that the work of preparing the last of the stones is not yet complete, and are thankful that there is still an opportunity to be one of those stones, and to be placed in that great spiritual temple in the particular niche for which, under divine guidance, the Lord is preparing us.

Surely this is a blessed hope, and while we longingly look forward to occupying such a glorious place in the divine arrangements for blessing all nations, let us remember that in order to attain such a high station we must be submissive to every trial which the Lord permits, and must be faithful to every opportunity afforded us of cooperating with him, of working together with him “to will and to do of his good pleasure.” (Phil 2:13) Let us, then, be on the alert, fearing lest a promise having been left us of entering into his rest, any of us “should seem to come short of it.”—Heb. 4:1

The Dedication of the Temple

When the typical Temple was erected, there followed a very impressive ceremony of dedication. (I Kings 8; II Chron. chapters 5-7) There were great demonstrations of joy in connection with this service, for the people of Israel rejoiced in this evidence that Jehovah, their God, had deigned to dwell with them. One feature of the ceremony was the bearing of the Ark from Mt. Zion by the priests, and placing it in the position in the Temple prepared for it. As the Ark was brought forth, the Levites sang, or chanted—probably some of David’s psalms, which by inspiration seem to have been written for the occasion.

One of these is believed to be Psalm 136—the theme of which is the often-repeated expression, “His mercy endureth for ever.” In this remarkable psalm we learn that the slaying of Pharaoh and his hosts in the Red Sea, as well as the destruction of others who opposed God in ancient times, was an expression of divine mercy—that it was better for them to die then, and to be partakers of God’s mercy during the time of restitution of all things rather than to continue their downward sinful course.

That this theme song of God’s mercy should be used at the dedication of the typical Temple further confirms the fact that the antitypical temple of God is being prepared especially to be a channel of God’s mercy to the whole world of mankind—that house of God in which he will meet and bless all the families of the earth. Failure to recognize this divine purpose through the church leaves many churches in almost total darkness concerning the real plan of God.

Let us then rejoice in the blessed truth that the true church is the temple of the living God, peculiarly his workmanship.

Meantime, of course, “the chiseling, shaping, and polishing of consecrated believers in Christ’s atonement for sin progresses, and when the last of these ‘living stones, elect and precious’, shall have been made ready, the Master Workman will bring all together in the first resurrection.”—Quotation from “To Us the Scriptures Clearly Teach”

Surely this is a glorious hope, a hope that should give us strength to endure all the pain and difficulties which may be necessary to prepare us for its fruition. And this hope is made the more blessed because it not only pertains to our own reward of joint-heirship with Jesus, but also to the privilege which will be ours as parts of that glorious future temple, to “be the meeting place of God and men throughout the Millennium.”—“To Us the Scriptures Clearly Teach”

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