The Temple and the Work

By COGwriter

A couple of decades ago, many of us attended a church with a lot more people and a very fancy building in Pasadena. This church (the old Worldwide Church of God, WCG) was impressive and wealthy (to view some of its buildings, check out Pictures of the Pasadena Campus of Ambassador College and the former Headquarters of the old Worldwide Church of God). Its magnificent headquarters was the envy of many outside of the group. It even had the number 1 rated religious telecast in the USA for a short while. Those are impressive accomplishments for a Church that only made up around 2/10ths of 1% of the world's population.

Now we see a much smaller church, and with people scattered amongst scores of groups.

Has God forsaken us or has this type of thing happened in the past?

Are we Christians the temple of God? Does a physical temple need to be rebuilt in Jerusalem prior to Jesus returning as some teach or does the necessary temple exist today?

This article will discuss the two temples of the Old Testament and some of their possible relevance to us now and in the future.

Two Hebrew Temples

The first temple in the Old Testament was essentially a headquarters' work. David saw a need and wanted to build a temple to God, but was prevented from doing so (1 Chronicles 28:2-3). He was allowed to use the wealth of Israel to collect building materials for it (1 Chronicles 28: 14-19), though his son Solomon actually had it built (1 Kings 6:2). This temple was magnificent and it was completely covered with gold (1 Kings 6:19-22).

The second Old Testament temple was different. First of all there was a call to find out which of the children of Israel would be faithful to help do the work of rebuilding it (Ezra 1:2-3)--basically they were told to begin again, even without as much support or finances.

Secondly, those whose spirit God moved from among His people went to do the work (Ezra 1:5). This suggests that not all of God's people responded.

Thirdly, this temple was not physically as impressive as the first one. When the foundations of the second temple were laid, those who had seen the magnificence of the first temple did not rejoice, they wept (Ezra 3:12a). This temple, though, seemed to be quite important to God.

It should be added that those who had not seen the former temple actually rejoiced when the new temple was begun (Ezra 3:12b).

The Bible teaches that there was a lull in construction due to opposition (Ezra 4). Even though King Darius the Mede eliminated the official opposition and admonished the people to be diligent to rebuild the temple (Ezra 6:3-12), they were not. Apparently many decided that it was not time to rebuild it (Haggai 1:2); they seemed to feel that it was time to take care of themselves (Haggai 1:4)--they did not see a fancy temple and apparently did not feel they needed to support the work.

God felt otherwise. Furthermore, God had to tell the people to do the work of rebuilding the temple:

5 Now therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: "Consider your ways! 6 "You have sown much, and bring in little; You eat, but do not have enough; You drink, but you are not filled with drink; You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm; And he who earns wages, Earns wages to put into a bag with holes." 7 Thus says the Lord of hosts: "Consider your ways! 8 Go up to the mountains and bring wood and build the temple, that I may take pleasure in it and be glorified," says the Lord. (Haggai 1:5-8).

This building of this temple, although directed by headquarters, involved more of the regular people directly than did the first temple (Ezra 2) . Many who saw the old temple thought it was magnificent (NKJ "glorious") and that in comparison the new temple was as nothing (Haggai 2:3).

But what did God say about it? God said:

"The glory of this latter temple shall be greater than the former..." (Haggai 2:9).

Remember God does not think the same way we humans d:; Isaiah 55:8-9. This temple was not more glorious because it was as elaborate. It may have been more glorious because it represented the work of God under adversity. By the way, once this work was finished, God promised to provide blessings to his people (Haggai 2:19).

In Haggai we see that someone who saw the old temple and only had a remnant would lead the work of God at the end:

2"Speak now to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to the remnant of the people, saying: 3 'Who is left among you who saw this temple in its former glory? And how do you see it now? In comparison with it, is this not in your eyes as nothing? 4 Yet now be strong, Zerubbabel,' says the Lord; 'and be strong, Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest; and be strong, all you people of the land,' says the Lord, 'and work; for I am with you,' says the Lord of hosts. 5 'According to the word that I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt, so My Spirit remains among you; do not fear!' 6 "For thus says the Lord of hosts: 'Once more (it is a little while) I will shake heaven and earth, the sea and dry land; 7 and I will shake all nations, and they shall come to the Desire of All Nations, and I will fill this temple with glory,' says the Lord of hosts. 8 'The silver is Mine, and the gold is Mine,' says the Lord of hosts. 9 'The glory of this latter temple shall be greater than the former,' says the Lord of hosts. 'And in this place I will give peace,' says the Lord of hosts." (Haggai 2:2-9)

How do we know this is a prophecy for the end time? Because verses 6 (shaking the heaven and earth, cf. Revelation 16:18-20) , 7 (all nations did not come to Jerusalem, cf. Zechariah 14:16), and 9 (peace, cf. Zechariah 9:10) were not fulfilled at the time of Haggai.

Do you despise the "small things" or do you rejoice in the work of what God is doing? Notice the following:

6 So he answered and said to me:

"This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel:
'Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,'
Says the Lord of hosts.
7 'Who are you, O great mountain?
Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain!
And he shall bring forth the capstone
With shouts of "Grace, grace to it!"'"

8 Moreover the word of the Lord came to me, saying:

9 "The hands of Zerubbabel
Have laid the foundation of this temple;
His hands shall also finish it.
Then you will know
That the Lord of hosts has sent Me to you.
10 For who has despised the day of small things?
For these seven rejoice to see
The plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel.
They are the eyes of the Lord,
Which scan to and fro throughout the whole earth." (Zechariah 4:6-10).

Although some in the past have claimed that the late Herbert W. Armstrong was Zerubabbel (and some, like David Pack, still make that claim), Herbert Armstrong is dead and did not finish the work (just before he died, on January 10, 1986, he wrote, "The greatest work lies ahead"). Yet, since the Bible says that Zerubbabel will finish the work, this cannot be a reference to Herbert Armstrong. The work will be finished by someone who saw the earlier work and temple, and survived past that to build a work again. Someone once part of the old Worldwide Church of God when Herbert Armstrong was alive.

It is obvious to all that the work of God at this time appears smaller than it was before--but the work is to be a spiritual one that reaches the world (see also Should the Church Still Try to Place its Top Priority on Proclaiming the Gospel or Did Herbert W. Armstrong Change that Priority for the Work?).

We in the Continuing Church of God are aware that we do not have the personal and financial support of many who once said they would always support the work of God. But are we aware of the massive work, this end time 'Zerubabbel work,' we are actually a part of?

Because we in the Continuing Church of God are part of the 'Zerubbabel work' and preparing for the 'short work' that the Apostle Paul told of in Romans 9:28 (see also Preparing for the 'Short Work' and The Famine of the Word).

Now, more than in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, we need to be a part of the work of God. We still need to accept direction from headquarters, and that also means that we need to be a part of the work until Jesus returns. As Jesus said:

Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes (Luke 12:43).

Being an active member of the Church of God means that we need to participate, similarly to the Israelites that answered the call to build the second temple. In several respects (especially on a per member and per dollar basis), the Continuing Church of God has exceeded the accomplishments of the former WCG--this is truly beginning to fulfill Zechariah 4:6. Despite its small size (cf. Zechariah 4:10), the Continuing Church of God. is leading what I have long referred to as the final phase of the work.

Yet, as prophesied many will not believe it. Notice the following Bible prophecy:

5 "Look among the nations and watch --
Be utterly astounded!
For I will work a work in your days
Which you would not believe, though it were told you. (Habakkuk 1:5)

Will you believe?

We in the Continuing Church of God have reached people in over 220 nations and territories through articles on the internet as well having people in over 210 nations and territories view our sermons and/or sermonettes.

Perhaps it should be mentioned that the Continuing Church of God has literature in more languages than any known Church of God in history--and this seems to be necessary in order to fulfill Jesus' statements in Matthew 24:14 and Matthew 28:19-20.

To see more of what God has been accomplishing in the Continuing Church of God to reach the nations you may wish to check out its weekly Letters to the Brethren as well as the articles Preparing for the 'Short Work' and The Famine of the Word and The Final Phase of the Work.

But Does the Bible Teach that a Physical Temple Needs to Be Built in Jerusalem?

Many Protestants (and some who claim to be Church of God, COG) with an interest in prophecy believe that the Bible teaches that a physical Jewish temple needs to be built before the end will be here. 

Even though they believe it will happen after their “pre-tribulation rapture,” Dr. T. LaHaye & J. Jenkins go so far as to declare:

All prophecy teachers who interpret the Scriptures literally agree that a Jewish temple in Israel will be rebuilt…

That there will be a third temple is predicted by the prophet Daniel, the apostles Paul and John, and none other than Jesus Himself (LaHaye T, Jenkins J.  Are We Living in the End Times?  Tyndale House, Wheaton (IL), 1999, p. 122).

And while a Jewish temple might be rebuilt in Israel, the truth is that Jews can sacrifice on altars without a temple. The Prophet Daniel never recorded that a temple had to be rebuilt. There is simply no verse in Daniel that specifies any third Jewish temple.

Furthermore the “temple” Paul referred to in 2 Thessalonians 2:4 is from the Greek word naos, which is a different Greek word than the one normally used elsewhere in the New Testament for the Jewish temple (which is hieron).  While in the New Testament, the Greek term hieron always refers to the Jewish temple in the New Testament, the term naos does not have to—and clearly often is not doing so (e.g. John 2:21; 1 Corinthians 3:16-17; Revelation 21:22).  Thus those who take the Greek literally realize that it is not necessary that it is a “Jewish temple in Israel” that the “man of sin” sits in. 

Contrary to the assertions of Dr. T. LaHaye & J. Jenkins, neither John nor Jesus are referring to a Jewish temple (hieron) being rebuilt

In the post-resurrection times, it is also doubtful that the expression “temple of God” would refer to a Jewish temple as the Apostle Paul told Christians

“that you are the temple of God” (1 Corinthians 3:16)

Thus, 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 apparently has to do with Christians and/or a place of true Christian worship.  As further scriptural proof notice the following:

20 Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit (Ephesians 2:20-22).

The Greek term translated as “temple” above is naos. Unlike many in the Protestant world, the late Herbert W. Armstong understood that the temple Christ was to return to was represented by the church as he wrote:

...Christ's Second Coming as the spiritually GLORIFIED Christ, to his spiritual temple (the Church resurrected to spirit immortality) (Eph. 2:21-22) (Armstrong HW. Mystery of the Ages).

But, one may ask, does not the Bible teach that the son of perdition will sit in the temple? Let's look at the verses that discuss that 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4:

3 Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, 4 who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.

The Greek term translated as “temple” above in 2 Thessalonians 2:4 is naos. It does not have to refer to a Jewish temple in Israel.

While it is possible that the son of perdition will physically sit in a building once owned or rented by the Continuing Church of God after most (or all) of the Philadelphians among us flee to a place of protection, again a physical temple in Israel is not required for prophecy to be fulfilled.

Thus, those who insist that a Jewish temple must be built are insisting upon something that the Bible does not insist upon. An altar is fine for the physical sacrifices that Daniel refers to (more information on what Daniel teaches can be found in the article Who is the King of the North?).

It perhaps should also be pointed out that there is the remnants of a building in Jerusalem that appears to be the first building built by Christians for worship purposes. It was, to a great degree, apparently made up of the bricks that used to be part of the last Jewish Temple. Thus, this is a possible area/temple that the 'man of sin' (see also Who is the Man of Sin of 2 Thessalonians 2?) sit in (see also Church of God on Jerusalem's Western Hill and/or watch the video Does the 'Cenacle' deal have prophetic ramifications?).

There is nothing in the Bible (certain non-biblical Jewish traditions notwithstanding) that states that sacrifices can only take place if a temple is built. And the New Testament supports the idea that the temple of God has to do with Christians (1 Corinthians 3:16), not simply the Jewish peoples. For more detailed discussion, more scriptures, and even Protestant commentary, please see the article Why is a Jewish Temple in Jerusalem Not Required?

Conclusion

So what do we learn about the relevance of the two temples? We learned that even in the Old Testament there was a physically glorious work which was replaced by a spiritually glorious work. We see that it was harder for those who saw the previous temple to be content when they saw the new temple. We have also seen that those who had not seen the former, were grateful to see the latter.

Many, sadly, seem to do the opposite of what the Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:7, in that they walk by sight and not faith. Since the old Worldwide Church of God had impressive buildings (see Pictures of the Pasadena Campus of Ambassador College and the former Headquarters of the old Worldwide Church of God), some seem to want to see something like that again before they will do God's work--but that is not an attitude God wants.

Yet, isn't that what is happening now? Those who saw the our old work are somewhat disappointed by the new work in terms of size. But remember that God's thoughts are not our thoughts, nor His ways our ways.

The temple today is not an Israeli one. The work now is spiritual--although it does have a physical location, which might be considered as a temple. But like the new temple in Haggai's day, it is not as physically attractive as the previous ones. However, since God does not view things the same way as humans do, it is more glorious in His sight.

The final phase of the work has begun. Will you believe it?

It seems that Haggai 2:9 is beginning to come to pass now that "The glory of this latter temple shall be greater than the former." We can all thank God for that.

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