King David’s son, Solomon was given the wonderful privilege of building a temple for God in Jerusalem. II Chronicles 5 records that on the day of the temple’s dedication, “…the house of the Lord, filled with a cloud, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of God” (Vs. 13-14).
Solomon’s temple was later destroyed by the Babylonians (II Chronicles 36). Seventy years later it was rebuilt by Ezra (Ezra 5 & 6). Following the conquest of Judea by Antiochus the Great, the temple was looted and its religious services stopped. In 167 BC, Antiochus Epiphanes ordered an altar to Zeus erected in the temple and ordered pigs to be sacrificed at the altar. Following the Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid empire, the temple was rededicated and once again became the religious pillar of the Jewish kingdom. After the Roman capture of Judea in 63 BC, Herod the Great undertook a massive expansion and remodel of Jerusalem’s temple, this was the temple of Jesus’ day, the temple that was then destroyed by the Legions of Titus in 70 AD.
The Ark of the Covenant represented the personified presence of God among His people. That Ark resided in the Holy of Holies behind a thick veil in the temple. That veil was ripped in two when Jesus died on the cross outside of Jerusalem. The rending of this veil was the beginning of a new era in which the Spirit of God would no longer dwell in a house of stone and wood but in the human heart of every born-again child of God.
Of this amazing truth, the Apostle Paul wrote, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple” (I Corinthians 3:16-17). And again, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So, glorify God in your body” (I Corinthians 6:19-20). My brother, my sister, you are God’s temple!
Fifty-seven years ago, when Sierra Bible Church was just getting started, it met in a local bar for its Sunday services. Forty-four years ago, when I was pioneering the work of Moab Christian Center, we met in an American Legion Hall that was used for parties on Saturday night, leaving behind the smell of stale beer and cigarette smoke. These buildings were not temples, the true temples of worship came to those buildings on Sunday mornings and transforming them into God’s Holy of Holies.
Therefore, our preparation for worship, both individually and corporately, is the preparation of the heart and fixing of our eyes on Jesus, not the surroundings. Jesus said, “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, there I am among them” (Matthew 18:20). That gathering of God’s people may be in a lean-to shelter in the jungle, a great cathedral, a rented storefront, public school classroom, or a bar that’s not being used on Sunday morning, Wherever God’s people may gather for worship, we need to remember, it is not the building that sanctifies the people, but the people of God, filled with the Holy Spirit, who sanctify the building. “For we are the temple of the living God” (II Corinthians 6:16).