From time to time there is a big to-do that pops up in modern-day evangelicalism regarding the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem in the modern-day nation-state of Israel (News: Sanhedrin Apppoints High Priest…). What are we, the Church, to think of such political endeavors? Does Scripture point to a third Temple as a physical place of worship where the presence of God will sit on His Mercy Seat? In short, “no”. We are not looking for another physical temple.
Rather than dig into one of the Apocalyptic texts for this discussion, I thought we’d take a moment to look at a wonderful passage of Scripture where Jesus most clearly identifies Himself as the “I AM”, and he does so to an adulterous, Samaritan woman.
John 4:1-30 (ESV) | Jesus and the Woman of Samaria
Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples), he left Judea and departed again for Galilee. And he had to pass through Samaria. So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.
A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”
Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”
Just then his disciples came back. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you seek?” or, “Why are you talking with her?” So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” They went out of the town and were coming to him.
I’ve highlighted the key point for our discussion of the earthly temple in Jerusalem. The Samaritans were the remnant of the Northern Kingdom of Israel who had fallen to Assyria and intermarried with gentiles and adopted their pagan worship practices and idols. To the Jews, they were worse than Gentiles, they were apostates descended from apostates. They worshiped on the high places where they also had idols. The Jews worshiped in the Temple in Jerusalem, that is where they were to go to keep the Mosaic Covenant, for the sacrifices and offerings according to the Law. This Samaritan woman points to her ancestors who worshiped God on this mountain, yet the Jews say that God is to be worshiped in Jerusalem. Notice how the LORD responds to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” Christ is the substance to which the Tabernacle and the Temple foreshadowed. Notice He didn’t pick one or the other, but to something greater. And this Samaritan woman got it. She understood that He was pointing to the New Covenant, though she had no idea what it would entail. She knew that it would involve bringing all nations to God, for she included herself in its promise. “I know that Messiah is coming… when he comes, he will tell us all things”. And the LORD, being so loving and gracious, tells her, “I AM who speaks to you” (ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ λαλῶν σοι). In the Greek you can see the “I AM” being invoked better than in the ESV. Don’t just take my word for it, go to your Pastor who has been trained in Koine Greek and ask him.
Christ is the Temple.
John 2:18-22 (ESV) So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking about the temple of his body. When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.
He is the True temple. The previous earthly buildings were merely shadows of Him (Hebrews 9-10).
Hebrews 10:1-4 (ESV) | Christ’s Sacrifice Once for All
For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.
Hebrews 10:19-25 (ESV) | The Full Assurance of Faith
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
Here, the author of Hebrews invokes the purpose of the Church until the Day of Christ’s return. There’s no emphasis on some new earthly temple, but an emphasis on Christ and His finished work on the cross.
Stop looking to the nation-state of Israel for a sign of our LORD’s return. Instead, hold fast the confession of our hope in Christ Jesus. Gather together around the Preached Word and consider how to stir one another to love and good works in the Gospel.
Hebrews 13:20-21 (ESV) Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
In Christ Jesus,