The Temples Of The Past
The Temples Of The Past
The book of Haggai is short, only two chapters and narrow in its focus. It is a book primarily about the temple. The rebuilding of the temple, the temple in the past, the temple in the future and everything in between. Without a clear understanding of what the temple represents we will not understand the full weight of Haggai’s message. The question must be answered what exactly is a temple? Biblically the most basic answer is a temple is a place where God dwells it is literally called God’s house. In the following pages I want to give you a broad understanding of every temple in the Bible so we can better appreciate the magnitude of this book. We will begin in Genesis and move thru to Revelation so you can see how each temple reveals the entire redemptive plan of God. Let’s start with the first temple, which was the Garden of Eden.
· Gen 2:8 The LORD God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed.
Man was created in the image of God (Gen 1:26) and before the fall had uninterrupted fellowship with him in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve were innocent with no knowledge of good or evil; consequently, they could be naked and fully exposed before the Lord without shame for their thoughts or actions (Gen 2:25). God provided all their physical needs for nourishment in the produce of the garden. This garden was the original temple, the house of God where the Lord dwelt with his creatures that were created in his image.
· Gen 2:16 The LORD God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; 17 but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.”
· Gen 3:8 They heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. Then the LORD God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you? 10“I heard Your voice in the garden,” he replied, “and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.”
Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit and immediately their fellowship with God was broken. They are still in the garden and able to hear the voice of the Lord, but now they feel shame. Their guilty conscience is convicting them. For the first time they are experiencing immoral thoughts and now have the knowledge of evil experientially. They hear the footsteps of the Lord and instead of running to meet him they hide.
· Gen 3:19 By the sweat of your face You will eat bread, Till you return to the ground, Because from it you were taken; For you are dust, And to dust you shall return.”
Yahweh is light and ineffably holy, no evil dwells with him (Psalm 5:4), he cannot look upon evil (Hab 1:13), our sins separate us from the creator (Isaiah 59:2). Immediately upon their sin Adam and Eve are cursed. They were promised work, instead of the Lord providing all their material needs now they would have to sweat just to eat bread. In addition, they were promised one day they would also die. But that is not all that they were promised, it would have been reasonable for the Lord to end humanity right there. God owes us nothing and never had to create us in the first place, for a man made of dirt to revolt against his creator is certainly worthy of judgement. Yet God immediately begins his plan of redemption to bring mankind back into a state of union with him. He promises a seed, a child, a Messiah that will come to conquer death and the devil. Furthermore, he makes garments of skin (the first sacrifice) and clothes them to cover their nakedness which foreshadows the work of the Messiah.
· Gen 3:22 Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”— ... 24 So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the Cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life.
Finally, the Lord excommunicates Adam and Eve from the garden of Eden, the first dwelling place and temple of God with men. Take note of the Cherubim guarding the way to the tree of life and the direction Adam and Eve were sent out (east).
· Gen 2:10 Now A River flowed out of Eden to water the garden…
· Ps 46:4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, The holy dwelling places of the Most High.
· Rev 22:1 Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, 2 in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life…
The rest of scripture reveals God’s plan to bring us back into communion with him. The Bible is essentially an unfolding of the redemptive plan of God thru Christ. Jesus will restore all things and in the eternal state there will be a river just like in Eden. This river and tree of life Jesus promises his children will one day enjoy in a new creation. The temples throughout the Bible begin to reveal how God will bring us back into his presence. Take special note of these items before we move on from the garden.
1. The sacrifice required for sin
2. Mankind needing to work to eat bread
3. The direction Adam and Eve are sent (east)
4. Cherubim guarding the way back to the tree of life
5. The river that flowed thru the garden
The next temple we will look at is the Tabernacle of Moses. This is the first religious structure the Lord commanded to be built and was the national place of worship for Israel. It was erected by Moses after the Hebrews were saved from their slavery to Egypt. The plans for the Tabernacle were given by God to Moses on Mt. Sinai (Ex 25:40). The Holy Spirit empowered craftsmen to complete the work (Ex 31:3), just like the Holy Scriptures which although authored by God are written down by men under the influence of his Spirit.
· John 1:14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.
The Tabernacle was a mobile temple able to be packed up and moved from place to place as the Hebrews travelled thru the wilderness. This represents Jesus the Eternal Word and Son of God who became flesh and dwelt (Tabernacled) among us. Just as the Tabernacle was in the wilderness 40 years so Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness being tempted (Matthew 4:1-2).
The tabernacle was split into three areas. First, the outer court with the Bronze Altar and Laver. Then you would enter the tent of meeting which contained the Holy Place with the Lampstand, Showbread, and Altar of incense. Finally, you would pass thru the veil and into the Holy of Holies containing the Ark of the covenant. As you will see the entire design represents mankind’s journey back to God with several symbols reminiscent of the Garden of Eden.
The Tabernacle has a single door representing Jesus who said several times that he is the door that the sheep enter and are saved (Jn 10:7-9). Just as Noah’s ark had a single door that the Lord closed behind them leading to salvation (Gen 7:16), Jesus said there is but one way to the Father and that is thru him (Jn 14:6). The direction of the door is very important as it faces to the east. Therefor the only way to begin the journey back to God is to move in the opposite direction that we were expelled from his presence in the Garden. Adam and Eve were expelled to the east, therefor to enter a door facing east you must be traveling west. This represents repentance and journeying back into the presence of God thru the door that is Jesus Christ. What do you think you would see upon first entering this door?
· Ex 29:38 “Now this is what you shall offer on the altar: two one year old lambs each day, continuously. 39“The one lamb you shall offer in the morning and the other lamb you shall offer at twilight
· John 1:29 The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!
Just as in the Garden, the only way back into the presence of God is thru a sacrifice. The justice of God must be satisfied, and it is God himself who must cover our sin. There were many different types of sacrifices performed on the bronze altar that all point towards Christ. However, the most common thing you would see in the tabernacle as you walk through that single door to the east was a lamb being slain!
· Ex 30:18 “You shall also make a laver of bronze, with its base of bronze, for washing; and you shall put it between the tent of meeting and the altar, and you shall put water in it.
· Tit 3:5 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we did in righteousness, but in accordance with His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit,
You would then wash yourself in a bronze basin before entering the Holy Place, pointing to the washing of regeneration that takes place when we are born again. Upon regeneration we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit and become God’s temple, he washes us from the inside out. Therefor the bronze laver represents the cleansing of the Spirit or sanctification that comes when we are born again thru the Word of God. After our sin is paid for by the lamb, and we are cleansed by the washing we are then able to step into the Holy place as we continue our journey towards the presence of God.
· Ex 25:31 “Then you shall make a lampstand of pure gold. The lampstand and its base and its shaft are to be made of hammered work; its cups, its bulbs and its flowers shall be of one piece with it.
· Ex 26:1“Moreover you shall make the Tabernacle with ten curtains of fine twisted linen and blue and purple and scarlet material; you shall make them with Cherubim, the work of a skillful workman
· Jn 1:4 Once again, Jesus spoke to the people and said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in the darkness, but will have the light of life."
Immediately upon entering the Holy Place you would notice beautiful artwork depicting Cherubim on the curtains. Your eyes would naturally go towards the only source of light in the room, the Menorah or lampstand. The lampstand was fashioned as a single piece of gold, like a tree with three branches on each side and depictions of flowers on top. Jewish tradition says it represents the tree of life with the Cherubim around it. Jews today still use the Menorah when celebrating Hanukkah. The Menorah represents Jesus who several times called himself the light of the world.
· Gen 3:19 By the sweat of your face You will eat bread, Till you return to the ground, Because from it you were taken; For you are dust, And to dust you shall return.”
· Ex 25:30 “You shall set the bread of the Presence on the table before Me at all times.
· John 6:48 “I am the bread of life. 49 “Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 “This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 ““I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.”
Within the Holy Place were the twelve loaves of the showbread representing the twelve tribes of Israel or God’s people. God is the source of life and in the garden, he provided all our spiritual as well as material needs. Due to the curse mankind needed to work to sustain life. The Tabernacle represents moving back towards a relationship with God in a state of grace enjoying his provision again. Before the Tabernacle was constructed God literally rained down bread (manna) from heaven to sustain the Hebrews in the wilderness. On the table with the bread was also wine used for the drink offerings. Foreshadowing what the Church now experiences with communion. The bread points to Jesus who said anyone who comes to him will never hunger and anyone who believes in him will never thirst. The Holy Place is meant to represent a restored relationship with God; eating, drinking, and as you will see with the next piece of furniture even talking to him again.
· Ex 30:1 “Moreover, you shall make an altar as a place for burning incense; you shall make it of acacia wood.
· Ps 141:2 May my prayer be counted as incense before You; The lifting up of my hands as the evening offering.
· Rev 5:8 When He had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.
The altar of incense is the final piece of furniture in the Holy Place. The incense would fill the Holy Place and go before the presence of the Lord in the Holy of Holies. It represents the prayers of the saints ascending to God.
· Exodus 30:10 “Aaron shall make atonement on its horns once a year; he shall make atonement on it with the blood of the sin offering of atonement once a year throughout your generations. It is most holy to the LORD.”
The altar of incense was only to be used for burning incense, no other offering was allowed. However, it resembles the altar of burnt offering in that it had four horns and was made of acacia wood. Once a year on the day of atonement the High Priest would sprinkle blood on the altar to cleanse it. We have then in the Holy Place a clear picture of renewed fellowship with God. Walking as children of God in the light of the true Menorah Jesus. Enjoying the provision of God in a state of grace as we partake of the living bread that is Christ. Talking with the Lord as Adam and Eve did in the Garden, which was only made possible by the blood of the Lamb. God has truly gone thru great lengths in sacrificing his own Son that we might speak with him again.
· Ex 26:31 “You shall make a veil of blue and purple and scarlet material and fine twisted linen; it shall be made with Cherubim, the work of a skillful workman.
· Hebrews 10:19 Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh
Before entering the Holy of Holies, you would see a final veil covered in Cherubim, which represented the barrier between mankind and God. When Jesus died there was a great earthquake and the veil in the temple was torn from top to bottom (Mt 27:51). This signified a way had been made into the presence of God. You would then see the only piece of furniture in the Holy of Holies, the Ark of the Covenant.
The Ark represents the presence of God who dwells above the Cherubim (Ex 25:21-22). The Ark contained the first set of ten commandments that Moses broke. Scripture makes it clear that the thing that separates a Holy God from sinful men is the broken law. What could bridge this infinite gap between us and our creator? In between the broken law and Yahweh was the mercy seat or atonement cover. Once a year the high priest would sprinkle it with blood for without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin (Heb 9:22). The Ark is the clearest exposition of the gospel in the Tabernacle.
To sum up the tabernacle from the bronze altar in the beginning to the Ark at the end we see Christ exalted. Jesus is the door, the Lamb, the fountain of cleansing, the bread of life and the light of the world. His blood is what satisfies the wrath of God for the broken law. He is the tree of life and the only way for us to return to communion with our great God and savior! Now let’s look at Solomon’s temple. The Tabernacle was used for about 440 years before a permanent temple was erected in Jerusalem around 960 B.C. by Solomon. All the furniture in the temple is taken from the tabernacle design God gave to Moses just greatly enlarged. I have compiled a short list of the major upgrades below as well as a diagram.
1. Ten bronze lavers
2. Ten lampstands
3. Ten tables
4. Enlarged altar
5. Cherubim Statues
6. Golden interior
9. Side rooms
10. Sea of bronze
· 2 Chron 3:1 Then Solomon began to build the house of the LORD in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the LORD had appeared to his father David, at the place that David had prepared on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite.
· Gen 22:2 He said, “Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.”
· Gen 22:13 Then Abraham raised his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram and offered him up for a burnt offering in the place of his son. 14 Abraham called the name of that place The LORD Will Provide, as it is said to this day, “In the mount of the LORD it will be provided.”
The location Solomon chose for the temple was Mt. Moriah. This is the exact mountain Abraham ascended almost 1000 years prior as he prepared to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice. Mercifully the Lord provided a ram that could die in the place of Isaac as a crystal-clear picture of the gospel. Which is why Abraham named the mountain, “Yahweh will provide”. This mountain is where all the future temples would be built, as well as the region where Jesus was crucified! Combining the furniture of the tabernacle with the location of Solomon’s Temple we see everything pointing to the Messiah. Jesus really is the Lamb that was slain from before the foundation of the world (Rev 13:8). Everything God is doing points us toward his Son whose goings forth are from the days of eternity (Micah 5:2). God truly has provided for us on this mountain!
· Lev 9:23 Moses and Aaron went into the tent of meeting. When they came out and blessed the people, the glory of the LORD appeared to all the people. 24 Then fire came out from before the LORD and consumed the burnt offering…
· 1 Chron 21:26 Then David built an altar to the LORD there and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. And he called to the LORD and He answered him with fire from heaven on the altar of burnt offering.
· 2 Chron 7:1 Now when Solomon had finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the house.
From the tabernacle of Moses to the threshing floor of Arunah with David, and finally the temple of Solomon, dedication was always met by the fire of the Lord consuming the sacrifice. Our God is a consuming fire, and what a clear reminder of the bitter cup of wrath that our Lord Jesus drank down for us. When Solomon’s temple was dedicated, he sacrificed 120,000 Lambs and the Lord appeared to him to tell him he had chosen that exact place as a house of sacrifice. The gospel is first and foremost beholding that perfect Lamb! What more could God do to point our attention towards Jesus than this?
Unfortunately, after the death of Solomon the nation began its slide into apostasy and the Lord sent various prophets warning of coming judgement. Finally, after hundreds of years of use in 586 B.C. the capital city Jerusalem was conquered, and the temple was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar. After 70 years of captivity to Babylon a small remnant returned and under the prophetic ministry of Haggai began to rebuild the temple.
Zerubbabel was the governor of Judah and in charge of rebuilding this temple. Unfortunately, it was the runt of the litter as far as temples go. Many who had seen the temple in its former glory under Solomon were weeping as it was completed (Ezra 3:12). However, the Lord promises that the latter glory of this temple would be greater than Solomon’s (Haggai 2:9). The beleaguered nation must have been wondering how that could be given its lackluster size and magnificence.
· Zech 3:8 ‘Now listen, Joshua the high priest, you and your friends who are sitting in front of you—indeed they are men who are a symbol, for behold, I am going to bring in My servant the Branch.
· Zech 6:13-15 “Yes, it is He who will build the temple of the LORD, and He who will bear the honor and sit and rule on His throne. Thus, He will be a priest on His throne, and the counsel of peace will be between the two offices.”… 15 “Those who are far off will come and build the temple of the LORD.” Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent me to you. And it will take place if you completely obey the LORD your God.
This the very temple that Jesus one day stood in during his earthly ministry after Herod renovated it around 20 B.C. Symbolically Joshua the high priest goes into Zerubbabel’s temple to receive a king’s crown. The prophet Zechariah uses this temple to give the nation of Israel several key promises.
1. The Messiah is coming
2. He will build the temple
3. He will be a king and priest
4. The gentiles will serve him
5. This will take place if they obey as a nation
Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi are the only prophets whose ministry took place after the Babylonian captivity. They are the final prophets before Jesus’ earthly ministry. They all have similar themes and all of them mention the Messiah as well as the temple. Malachi closes the Old Testament by promising the Lord is coming back to his temple (Mal 3:1) during the 1st coming. He also speaks of the 2nd coming (Mal 3:3), where Jesus will purify the nation of Israel so they may receive the millennial blessings to come.
· Luke 19:41 When He approached Jerusalem, He saw the city and wept over it, 42 saying, “If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes.
When Jesus saw Jerusalem a few days before his crucifixion he wept over it. Christ understood that the nation was about to commit its final act of rebellion. By killing their own Messiah, the nation brought about its own destruction. He longed for the peace and prosperity that would come to them if they would just obey. He knew the glory of the millennial blessings promised to Israel. He Longed to gather them as a hen gathers its chicks, but they were not willing (Luke 13:34).
· Luke 19:43“For the days will come upon you when your enemies will throw up a barricade against you, and surround you and hem you in on every side, 44 and they will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.”
Jesus then predicted the destruction of the city and temple for their disobedience. This was fulfilled in 70 A.D. by the Romans. Given the vast amount of prophecy concerning Jesus in the tabernacle and temple it is gut wrenching that the Jewish people still killed their own God. This concludes all the temples that have been built in the past. In our next article we will look at temples of the future.