Holy Dwellings and God’s Association with Them
The man Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, once stood before the Sanhedrin (a legal body composed of the high priest, leaders of the people, and legal experts) and established God does not dwell in items made with hands (Acts 7:48). Yet, God chose to make His presence known within the earth, the tabernacle, and Solomon’s temple. God also commanded the temple built by Zerubbabel as a place for His name. These were not places where God lived, but those which He made holy by his association with them. Scripture identifies three other holy dwelling places of God not made by human hands. These are Christ, the Church, and the Christian. All told there are 7 specific dwelling places which are or were holy. However, not all of these remained holy. When something holy is defiled or unclean, what is God’s reaction? Is the reaction a pattern with God?
In the beginning, God created the tabernacle of the heavens and earth. For six days, God developed the creation which would house man and other forms of life. After each day, God declared everything He created was good. On the seventh day, he sanctified the day in recognition of the work He had done. It was holy, a pure dwelling place suitable for the care of man. God’s presence would be found upon it (Genesis 3:8). For man, God detailed acceptable behavior and what was not. This included what man was allowed eat (Genesis 2:15-16). Man made the decision to defy the authorized behaviors which God had established. Into the tabernacle of God’s creation was brought something unclean, unholy, and impure. Man introduced the defilement of sin into the world. What was God’s reaction? God disciplined man. The discipline brought death to all men from the time of Adam and Eve to the present day. During the age of early mankind, the pinnacle of judgment for defiling God’s tabernacle of creation was the destruction of all mankind save righteous Noah and his family. Is this reaction of discipline for defilement God’s pattern of response?
During the Mosaic age or time of Moses (1400 BC), God instructed Moses to build a tabernacle (Exodus 25:8-9). He gave miraculous inspiration to enable the exact creation of what He desired. Instructions were heeded exactly according to Exodus 39:32, including the contents of the tabernacle, creation of the Ark of the Covenant, and priestly garments. The tabernacle would represent a different manner in which God’s presence would be known (Exodus 40:34-38). God detailed authorized behavior in respect to the tabernacle. All that was directed by Him was holy. Man then introduced the defilement of sin into God’s holy wilderness tabernacle. In Leviticus 10:1-3, Nadab and Abihu determined to operate outside of faith (that which is heard from God’s Word – Romans 10:17). Nadab and Abihu offer an unauthorized fire into the tabernacle worship. What they offered was unclean, unacceptable, defiled. God reemphasizes He is to be treated as holy. How was He not? The priests were offering to God, so evidently they wanted to please Him. Their heart was right. John 4:24 states, “God is spirit, those that worship Him must worship in spirit and truth”. This means He will not only be worshipped by the appropriate attitude (spirit), but He will also be worshipped according to how He has commanded. Truth was missing in the actions of Nadab and Abihu. God was not being honored by unholy actions. Therefore, God disciplined man. He destroyed both men before the nation of Israel. Is this a pattern continued?
The nation of Israel through their sinfulness eventually demanded a King (as God said they would in Deuteronomy 17:14-15). Their second king was David. David whether by misunderstanding or not, determined to develop plans to build God a temple in place of the mobile tabernacle. These plans he handed over to Solomon his son. God agreed to be with Solomon, the people of Israel, and the temple as long as they kept His commandments (I Kings 6:12-13). As with the tabernacle, God’s glory filled the temple (I Kings 8:10-11). God made the temple a holy place and consecrated it in His name (I Kings 9:3-7). The purpose of the temple would assume the same as the tabernacle. It would be a holy place of worship and sacrifice. Solomon would later defile himself with foreign marriages and idolatrous ways. God would discipline him by splitting the kingdom of Israel. Jeroboam would assume the leadership of Israel and lead them into further defilement. Rehoboam the son of Solomon would lead the kingdom of Judah in sin. Under his leadership, the temple was defiled by Egypt (I Kings 14:25-26). This would come as discipline by the hand of God for he was not with this people in their sinful state. 350 years and 16 kings later, young King Josiah sees the defilement of the temple and people. He attempts to cleanse them. (2 Kings 23:4-7). He does what is right in the sight of God. Unfortunately, after Josiah, wickedness continues, defilement continues. 22 years later at the end of the reign of the last king of Judah (Zedekiah), the temple is destroyed. The year was 586 and Babylon plundered the nation and took them into captivity as a discipline from the Lord (2 Chronicles 36:14-19). Ezekiel from a vision in Babylon was given a vision of the Glory of God departing from the temple (Ezekiel 10:18-19). This continued God’s discipline pattern in response to the defilement of man’s sin.
Following 70 years captivity in Babylon and into the kingdom of the Medes and Persians, God’s hand of discipline would be lifted. It would be lifted to continue passage of the lineage of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. To do so, God commanded the King of Persia, Cyrus, to send Israel out of captivity to build Him a temple again. Zerubbabel would reign as governor over Judah upon his return. The temple would be known as Zerubbabel’s temple though later identified with Herod for the great restoration he would do. During the time of Zerubbabel the people would declare their allegiance to God once more (Ezra 10:10-12). The time frame covered from the completion of the temple in 516 BC to Christ in 3BC was 513 years. This period of Bible history is covered by the Bible writings of Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, and prophecy in Daniel. History shows Israel would put away its idolatrous ways. However, Israel did not stop its sin. This is shown in the prophecies of Daniel and the New Testament gospels Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The priesthood would be defiled in aiding Israel’s enemies and seeking man driven power. The temple would become a “den of robbers” according to Jesus in Matthew 21:13. God would again punish the people by various incursions against them before Christ. Antiochus IV would come into Jerusalem, sack it, and defile the temple twice. This includes the pouring of boiling pig flesh over the temple and altar. The Holy of Holies was entered and the treasure was taken from the temple. These were discipline from God, but a greater punishment would be unleashed in 70 AD as prophesied by Christ in Matthew 24:1-2. Once again, as with the tabernacle of the earth, the wilderness tabernacle, and Solomon’s temple, a holy dwelling of God had been defiled; God’s commandments were ignored and God would have no part with that which was unclean and unholy. A pattern from God seems to be clear.
At the fullness of time, God, in love, sent His Son Jesus. He did so for man’s salvation from defilement. Jesus is the eternal and Holy Temple of God as identified in John 2:19-22. Jesus was pure, sinless, perfect, and holy (I Peter 2:21-23). Man exposed to the purity of Christ, attempted to defile Him. They tried to intimidate him in regard to reaching out to the publicans and sinners in Matthew 9:10-13. He could have rejected God’s will by listening to Peter in Matthew 16:21-23. The Pharisees attempted to see if He would go against Caesar in Matthew 22:17-22. The High priest would present Him with the opportunity to deny Deity in Matthew 26:63-64. In John 8:3-11, the scribes and Pharisees would try to get him to disobey Roman law or God’s Law, but He would not. In the garden, He did not lie about his identity (John 18:3-5), though for others it would have been tempting. Pilate tried to intimidate Jesus declaring “I have the power to crucify you”, but Christ would not falter. Christ endured the shame of the cross though he could have tried to escape (Hebrews 12:2). Jesus would not allow man to defile Him. He now sits at the right hand of the Father in Heaven because he maintained the Holiness of God.
According to scripture, Christ is the head of the Church (Ephesians 5:23). I John 2:1 establishes Christ is righteous and Colossians 1:24 states that Christ’s body is the Church. Therefore, Christ being the Temple of God, the Church being His body, by inference is also the Temple of God. Christians are said to be one in the body of Christ according to Romans 12:5 and their relationship is that of building materials (I Peter 2:5). The Church is a Holy priesthood of building stones (Christians) through Christ. They are a holy dwelling of God. Yet again, man attempts to defile this dwelling. They do so through ignorant, willful, and unauthorized worship. The Corinthians accomplished it through what they thought was love, but was really just arrogance in ignoring sin present in the Church. The Galatians defiled the Church through accepting the teachings of those holding to portions of the Law of Moses. In 2 Timothy 2:15-18, Timothy was instructed about the defilement in the Church coming from Hymenaeus and Philetus who were stating the second coming of Christ had passed. Peter told the Church in 2 Peter 2:1-3, false teachers would speak evil of the truth. In all of these situations, man brought defilement into the Church. However, the true Church will not stay defiled. God in times past cleansed the defilement through discipline. I Corinthians 3:10-13 makes it clear God will cleanse the temple of His Church. God’s pattern of treatment in respect to defilement stands strong.
The final holy dwelling which God is associated with is the Christian. God has identified Christians as His temple (I Corinthians 3:16-17). It is God who adds to the Church (Acts 2:47). He only adds the pure of conscience and those forgiven of sin (Acts 2:38, I Peter 3:21). Romans 6:3-7 demonstrates that baptism buries man into the death of Christ. It is here where the individual contacts the blood of Christ and Christ’s blood purifies like no other (Hebrews 9:13-14). Galatians 3:27 reemphasizes only those who have put on Christ are washed by His Blood. So through this process impurity, defilement, uncleanness is washed away (Acts 22:16). Yet, in this pure and holy dwelling of God, man still introduces defilement. They do so by denying Christ as Peter did (Luke 22:54-62), by lying as Ananias and Saphira (Acts 5), through immorality (I Corinthians 5), through a love of material things like the rich, young man (Matthew 19), by refusing to accept Christ as the Pharisees and Sadducees (John 11), by persecution of Christians like Saul (Acts 8), through a love of the world as Demas (2 Timothy), by being lukewarm Christians (Revelation 3), or forgetting to put Christ first (Revelation 2). The truth is man defiles himself through disobedience to God’s Word.
Every time a holy dwelling of God has been defiled, God has prepared discipline, a cleansing of the defilement. Will this pattern hold true in the case of the Christian as a temple of God? I John 1:6-2:2, establishes the blood of Christ continues to cleanse those in Christ. Defilement is washed away leaving no defilement for God to discipline over. This is not without observance to the command of God. God establishes the cleansing based on “if”. “If” the Christian no longer walks in darkness, “if” the Christian practices the truth, “if” the Christian confesses their sins, then they will be cleansed of the defilement. However, according to Romans 2:4-8, those who think it is enough to have God’s kindness, forbearance, and patience are mistaken. These are given only to lead a man to repentance. “God will render to man according to his deeds.” Those who do not obey will face eternal destruction (2 Thessalonians 1:6-10). In other words, God will hold to His pattern of discipline for defilement.
God commands his dwelling places be pure and holy. His creation, wilderness tabernacle, temples, son, church, and children were all initially pure. Man attempted to defile them all. Only God’s Son perfectly withstood the uncleanness and defilement of men. His Body, the Church, His bride, will stand pure and wholly as well, because of the continual cleansing of His blood. The sinful who declare they are the bride of Christ will be denied. Those who try to crash the wedding party will be removed. No unclean thing shall enter the kingdom of Heaven. This is God’s reaction to the defiled. It is His pattern.
Revelation 21:22-27 – And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God the Almighty, and the Lamb, are the temple thereof. And the city hath no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine upon it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the lamp thereof is the Lamb. And the nations shall walk amidst the light thereof: and the kings of the earth bring their glory into it. And the gates thereof shall in no wise be shut by day (for there shall be no night there): and they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it: and there shall in no wise enter into it anything unclean, or he that maketh an abomination and a lie: but only they that are written in the Lamb’s book of life.