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4.16.5.5 - Temple of the Believer

When the Lamb of God (Isa. 53:7; John 1:29; 1Pe. 1:19; Rev. 5:6+) was offered on the cross, the veil of the Second Temple was torn from top to bottom (Mat. 27:51; Mark 15:38; Luke 23:45). This was a divine indication that the previous separation between God and man which required elaborate liturgical procedures by a special priesthood was done away with by Christ. Instead of recognizing a special day once a year when the high priest could enter through the veil into the Holy of Holies to represent the people before the presence of God, a new and living way was consecrated for believers through Christ’s body and blood offered on our behalf. The writer of Hebrews expressed it this way:

Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. (Heb. 10:19-22) [emphasis added]

Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Heb. 4:16) [emphasis added]

There are numerous benefits which were won for believers by Christ’s sacrifice, but perhaps the most important aspect of the work of Christ is the restoration of fellowship where man can approach God with a conscience having been cleansed by Jesus’ one-time sacrifice. Here again we touch on the theme of the Temple which we’ve been pointing to all along—the meeting place between God and man. Christ’s flesh and blood give the believer, by faith, full access to God:

To the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him. (Eph. 3:10-12) [emphasis added]

Many things changed in the moment of the crucifixion when the veil of the Temple was torn, but perhaps none more significant to our subject at hand than the glorification of Jesus which led the way to the giving of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost (John 7:38-39) to form a new type of spiritual Temple within the body of those who believe on Jesus. A short summary of this important transition, so essential to understanding the book of Acts, will be helpful.1 The significance of the coming of the Holy Spirit can be seen in several passages from John’s Gospel:

On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 7:37-39) [emphasis added]

Jesus states that rivers of living water (see Garden of Eden) will flow out of the heart of those who believe in Him. John explains to the reader that Jesus spoke of the Holy Spirit, but that the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. The Holy Spirit could not come to take up His new ministry until Jesus had been glorified. Something about the crucifixion was necessary before the Spirit could take up permanent residence within sinful flesh.

Later, in Jesus’ intimate time with His disciples on the night of His betrayal, He provides further insight into the new ministry of the Spirit:

And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. (John 14:16-18) [emphasis added]

Jesus is about to die on the cross and encourages His disciples by telling them that He will send another (αλλος [allos] , another of the same kind) of Helper. When this helper comes, He will abide with them forever. Jesus also relates that the Helper already dwells with them, but will be in them. He goes on to identify Himself with the Helper: I will come to you. These are remarkable statements pregnant in their theology and hope! Although the Holy Spirit has ministered on earth since the beginning (e.g., Gen. 1:2), He would come in a new way, in a permanent way, in a way which emphasized indwelling, and in the identity of Christ (Rom. 8:9; Php. 1:19). Although the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ, had ministered in the times preceding the crucifixion (1Pe. 1:11), there was not a permanence to this indwelling (1S. 16:14; Ps. 51:11; Eze. 2:2; 3:24). But this could not happen prior to the cross:

Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. (John 16:7) [emphasis added]

Can you imagine sitting at the feet of the Master and hearing words more puzzling than these? How could He claim it was to their advantage that He would leave? But note that the Helper “will not come” unless Jesus departs. This is connected with the explanation which John gave earlier: “But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified” (John 7:37-39).

To summarize:
  1. The Holy Spirit would not just be with the disciples, but permanently in them.
  2. The Holy Spirit could not come in the way Jesus promised until Jesus was glorified.
  3. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ. With the indwelling Spirit would be the indwelling Christ.
  4. The Holy Spirit would reside within each believer in much the same way as the Shekinah glory dwelt within the Tabernacle and Temple. (See The Abiding Presence of God.)

All of this was fulfilled in the events of the Day of Pentecost, often called “the birthday of the Church” (Acts 1:4-8; 2:4; cf. 8:14; 10:45; 11:16; 15:8; 19:6; 1Cor. 12:13). With the coming of the Spirit, the body of the believer became the Temple of God and God’s Spirit resided permanently within.2

Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? (1Cor. 6:19) [emphasis added]

And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” (2Cor. 6:16) [emphasis added]

Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. (Eph 2:19-22) [emphasis added]

These passages emphasize that the body of the believer is a Temple of God in the Spirit. The Holy Spirit Who resides permanently within every believer is functioning in an analogous way as the Shekinah dwelt between the cherubim over the Ark in the Holy of Holies, but with one extremely important difference: the Holy Spirit will never depart from the Temple of the believer as the Shekinah departed from the Temple (see The Abiding Presence of God). This is why believers are said to be sealed with the Holy Spirit (2Cor. 1:22; Eph. 1:13; 4:30). Believers may grieve or quench Him (Eph. 4:30; 1Th. 5:19), but He will never leave them!

How can God Himself dwell within the sinful flesh of the believer permanently when the sin of the people during Ezekiel’s day caused the glory of the Lord to depart the Temple? The answer lies in the completed sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. In the same way that the righteous dead were held in Abraham’s bosom3 but could not enter heaven until the crucifixion was accomplished (Luke 16:22 cf. Luke 23:43; 2Cor. 5:6; Php. 1:21-23), prior to the cross the Holy Spirit could enter individuals for specific purposes and times but could not permanently reside (1S. 16:14; Ps. 51:11; Eze. 2:2; Eze. 3:24)4 within sinful flesh as He now does (Eph. 1:13; 4:30). See The Coming of the Spirit.

Notes

1 For additional background on the transition associated with the Coming of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, see [Tony Garland, “Does Dispensationalism Teach Two Ways of Salvation?,” in The Conservative Theological Journal, vol. 7 no. 20 (Fort Worth, TX: Tyndale Theological Seminary, March 2003)].

2 There is some disagreement regarding whether each individual believer comprises a Temple of God or whether only the collective body of believers is the Temple. Some note plural pronouns which occur in passages describing the Temple of the believer’s body (1Cor. 6:19; 2Cor. 6:16). Others explain this plural form as teaching concerning the individual, but delivered to the readers as a group.

3 “In the rabbinic writings this is a very common term . . . the term . . . is a figure of speech describing a guest at a feast, reclining on the breast of his neighbor. Just as in the Gospel of John.”—Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of Messiah, rev ed. (Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries, 2003), 754.

4 “It is said on separate occasions that the Spirit entered into Ezekiel (Eze. 2:2; Eze. 3:24). How could this be if Ezekiel was permanently indwelled [sic]?”—Mal Couch, ed., A Bible Handbook to the Acts of the Apostles (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1999), 27.


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