A couple of decades ago, many of us attended a church with a lot more people and sometimes in much a fancier building. This church (the old Worldwide Church of God, WCG) was impressive and wealthy. Its magnificent headquarters was the envy of many outside of our 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.
Has God forsaken us or has this type of thing happened in the past? Are we 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.
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 (I Chr 28:2-3). He was allowed to use the wealth of Israel to collect building materials for it (I Chr 28: 14-19), though his son Solomon actually built it (I Kings 6:2). This temple was magnificent and it was completely covered with gold (I 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). 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 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).
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). God felt otherwise and 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 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? 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 do; 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).
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).
It is obvious to all that this phase of the work of God appears smaller than it was before. We 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 we are actually a part of?
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, but 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 some 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?
To see 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.
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 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 (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?).
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?
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.
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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B. Thiel. The Temple and the Work. www.cogwriter.com (c) 1998/2006/2008/2011/2012/2013 0519