Yes, He shall build the temple of the LORD. He shall bear the glory, And shall sit and rule on His throne; So He shall be a priest on His throne, And the counsel of peace shall be between them both. (Zechariah 6:13)
Our God provides wonderfully simple ways to illustrate deep and powerful truths. Today’s verse caught my attention in a bold and persistent way, and as I considered this dramatic Old Testament prophecy of the unique relationship of Christ in us, I was reminded of an historical fact. Way back when, churches and cathedrals were usually built in a cruciform design. The reminder of the cross was incorporated in a way that it determined the final shape of the ‘temple of God.’ Worship was centred within the context of the cross. It was a permanent and unmistakeable acknowledgement that our faith and relationship with God could not be separated from being in Christ.
The church is not the temple of God. We are.
Of course, human nature being what it is, we need only look at the history of the church to see that this dynamic principle was soon forgotten in the various power struggles, self-aggrandisement, and greed that too often characterised the growth of the church. The simple but critical message of the cross was overshadowed by the grandeur and magnificence of the buildings and the importance attached to them. The church or cathedral itself became the focal point, the ‘holy place,’ and the beautiful principle of God’s people figuratively being ‘in Christ’ was lost.
Which is not to say that we should religiously adhere to that old tradition. To be frank, doesn’t really care what shape our material building takes. He doesn’t even care whether we have a physical place of worship or simply gather under a tree if nothing else is available. It’s not the place that is the temple of God but the people who worship both individually and corporately. This verse in Zechariah points to the New Testament truth that each and every single believer becomes a living temple to the glory of God.
The principle behind the wilderness tabernacle and Solomon’s temple.
It’s absolutely true that God laid down very detailed blueprints and requirements for both the first tabernacle and the temple in Jerusalem, even to the point of exact dimensions and very specific materials. When it comes to building the temple of God, He is absolutely rigorous in the requirement that it follow His specifications. There is no room for individual style, preference, methods, or interpretation. History also makes it very clear that He decides who builds it. It’s significant that David was not allowed to build the Jerusalem temple because he had blood on his hands.
Back in the Old Testament, God chose a son of David to build the temple. In the New Testament, it is the Son of David – Christ – who is given the task of building the temple of God. Even within the miracle of salvation, we cannot ever presume to be worthy to build the temple. Only Jesus, the perfect man, is able to do so. Also, the Old Testament tabernacle and Jerusalem temple are a testimony to the truth that anything built by man will pass away. Solomon built according to the Lord’s blueprint, but a physical building cannot endure. The temple was in fact built three times – once by Solomon, and then rebuilt twice thereafter until it finally became the Muslim dome of the rock.
A temple of God built by man will always fall.
This is a powerful reminder that anything we build cannot endure, and can even be used by the enemy. It is not Christ who inhabits the Jerusalem temple but the sons of Ishmael – the descendants of man’s attempt to fulfil the promises of God. It’s a humbling and sobering truth. Even if we have the complete blueprint and architectural notes, we cannot build a temple that is unshakeable and which can never be twisted to be used against us and against God. If it’s human based, it’s vulnerable, and it makes us especially so when we consider that we are now the temple of God.
I believe absolutely that the concept of the old cathedrals and churches was God-inspired because it pointed always to the cross. That it was perverted to work against the things of God does not diminish the godly principle behind it. The problem wasn’t the principle, it was that man went ahead and built it in their natural understanding and fleshly ambitions. The message remains the same today – the temple of God must be built on the central and abiding power of the cross. Man simply lost sight of the fact that it is Christ that does the building, and that it’s a spiritual temple, first and foremost.
The dynamic relationship of us in Christ, Christ in us, and the temple of God.
Today’s verse is especially powerful, and even more so when we consider that Zechariah spoke these words around five hundred years before Christ was born. He beautifully portrays the simple but powerful principle of the New Testament temple of God, and does so by highlighting five things that characterise Christ’s relationship with us as defined by the motif of the temple.
As we consider these, it’s important to hold onto the reality that without the cross, none of these are possible. It is only through the cross that the spiritual – the supernatural – is able to meet the physical – the natural – in building a temple of God that will endure and which is a living, dynamic revelation of the glory of God on earth. It is the supernatural that makes the temple of God eternal and indestructible. Without God Himself being present in the building, it would simply be another man-made edifice.
Jesus builds the temple of God.
Until God’s presence inhabited the Old Testament tabernacle and temple, it remained simply a structure. It was only the abiding presence of God that transformed it into the temple of God. In the same way, it is Christ in us – the abiding presence of God – which transforms our physical bodies into the spiritual temple of God. When we worship, we embody the principle God revealed to those old church-builders and which they overlooked. We worship in Christ – is the blood of Jesus that enables us to enter the presence of God, and when we worship it brings us in Christ in perfect accord with Christ in us. It is a perfect and complete reciprocal relationship.
This is why having the Spirit is a critical part of any believer’s life. It is the Spirit who is the Helper – who empowers the dynamic of Christ in us and us in Christ. This relationship is the foundation of the temple of God, because it is Jesus, and not us, who builds the temple. We are simply the raw materials. We cannot lay the foundation, which is the cross, nor can we build the structure. It is absolutely impossible for human beings to build spiritual things. The power of God alone, who is spirit, is able to do this. And Jesus does it from within, not from without. He shapes the temple of God by shaping us from the spirit outwards. The physical shell is irrelevant. The New Testament temple is spirit, and that’s why it can endure.
Christ alone deserves the glory for the New Testament temple of God.
The message in this is very simple. What we become is for His glory, not ours. The moment we begin to feel a little pride or enjoy our own achievements is the moment when self seeks to take over the building of the temple. That’s the reason why so many committed, Spirit-filled believers fall. Self intrudes into the process of building the temple of God, and it becomes something that can be shaken and destroyed. It’s a simple matter of looking at how far we’ve come instead of how far He has brought us or how much He has changed us. Simple attitudes can usurp the glory that belongs to Christ.
The other truth is that we no longer live for ourselves. If the glory belongs to Christ, the temple does too. Our bodies, minds, hearts, emotions, and our very lives belong to Him. He has the sovereign right to shape us and use us as He chooses. To be the temple of God means to exist only for His purposes. If we insist on bringing self and our own ambitions and desires into the temple, we run the risk of ending up like the money-lenders Jesus drove out. When the Bible tells us that Jesus alone gets the glory, it means that when the world looks at us it sees only Him.
The temple of God is the place where Jesus rules.
This truth reinforces the sovereignty of Christ. In the temple of God, Jesus reigns and rules. As an illustration, David was both priest and king – the continuation of the throne of Melchizedek who was the ancient ruler of what became Jerusalem – and the Bible tells us that Jesus is a king-priest after the order of Melchizedek. The temple of God is the place of worship, and Psalm 23: 3 says that God is enthroned upon the praises of Israel, His people.
When Christ is in us, it’s as a king. He’s the boss. He rules and reigns and His will is absolute. We simply no longer have any say in what happens or how it happens. If we consider that this entire universe is held together by the sovereign will of God, we can grasp just a little of the power inherent in the principle of sovereignty. It also gives us insight into the power that is at work within us. If Christ is in us, working to transform us into the temple of God, His sovereignty contains a power beyond our human comprehension to effect a transformation we cannot even begin to image, let alone accomplish.
Christ is the High Priest of the New Testament temple of God.
We often hear that Jesus is at the right hand of the Father, and this is absolutely true. We also hear that He is the eternal High Priest, another indisputable fact. He was, on the cross, both High Priest and perfect sacrifice, and the Bible tells us that He then sat down at God’s right hand. The implication of this is that the sacrifice is perfect and complete, a once-and-for-all sacrifice that never has to be repeated, so He doesn’t have to remain standing and repeat the sacrifice over and over like the Old Testament priest were required to do. But His title and role as High Priest is eternal, and it’s a critical part of the New Testament temple of God.
To understand the apparent contradiction in this, we need to remember eternity. In eternity, past, present, and future exist in the same moment. It is the spiritual presence of eternity that makes the sacrifice on the cross an infinite event able to transcend human limitations and empower the salvation of every single human being. While, in Christ’s own words, it is finished, it’s power remains effective forever. When Christ is in us it is as High Priest as well. That mean that He empowers our worship and our daily sacrifice – the laying down of our lives in each little moment of choice where we surrender self to the sovereignty of God.
Christ brings perfect peace to the temple of God.
This is our promise – the peace of God which passes all understanding, and which cannot be obtained except through the reconciliation purchased for us on the cross. When Christ builds the New Testament temple of God, it is always on the foundation of the cross. It is always built on repentance, mercy, grace, and forgiveness, the things that enable the reconciliation of sinful man to a holy God. To reconcile means to resolve differences. It means to end conflict. Peace is often used as the opposite of war. It is something that enables life, safety, prosperity, and growth.
The peace of God is the perfect outworking of surrender to God. When we yield ourselves as the temple of God, when Christ – our master builder, king, and High Priest – is in us, the result is perfect peace. It is a transformation that transcends the things of man and of the world. It is our protection against the wiles of the enemy. It is our assurance that all things work to our good. It is the relief of knowing that we don’t have to prove ourselves, get it right, or achieve it in our own strength. It is the sure and certain knowledge that the power of the cross is at work within us, and that Jesus, through the work of the Spirit, will accomplish and complete what He has begun.
Thank You, Lord Jesus, for the wonderful revelation of the privilege of being the temple of God. Lead us and guide us daily. Help us to surrender the things that hinder the work of building, and enable us to see the things that self tries to accomplish. By Your grace, Lord, help us to yield all that we are to Your sovereign will, and to rejoice in the knowledge that Your divine purpose is always at work in us for Your glory.