This is a continuation of the previous blog, Envisioning the Temple (II).
The Temple is a heavenly concept whose primal architect is God. In the Torah it is clearly God who offers the design (paradigm, blueprint) for the Temple to His people. As we already saw Adolfo Roitman in his book, ENVISIONING THE TEMPLE, says:
“…it was in the Tabernacle – the ‘Tent of Meeting’ – that the Divine Presence revealed itself to Moses (Exod 25:22; 30:6). . . . Significantly, David like Moses at Sinai (cf. Exod 25:9), was said to have received a ‘blueprint’ in God’s own hand (1 Chron 28:19).” (p 50)
Both Moses the God-seer and King David the Prophet were shown God’s plan for the Temple which they were to copy. And yet God’s people were aware of a tension caused by the existence of the temple. Solomon, the Prophet David’s own son already proclaims about the temple he has built:
“But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain thee; how much less this house which I have built!” (1 Kings 8:27; 2 Chronicles 6:18)
It is in the New Testament that we see a new understanding of the Temple emerge. The Temple will serve all of the purpose God intended but in a new and unexpected way.
“For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; hence it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer. Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, since there are priests who offer gifts according to the law. They offer worship in a sanctuary that is a sketch and shadow of the heavenly one; for Moses, when he was about to erect the tent, was warned, ‘See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.’ But Jesus has now obtained a more excellent ministry, and to that degree he is the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted through better promises.” (Hebrews 8:3-6)
The prophets of Israel had warned Israel as to the role of the Temple in its midst.
“Do not trust in these deceptive words: ‘This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD.’” (Jeremiah 7:4)
As Fr. Theodore Stylianopoulos explains:
“In Jeremiah the temple stands in opposition to God (Jer 7:4; 26:6-10), and against it stands God’s word represented by the words of his prophet (1:1-2;7:28; 26:12-13). In contrast, the representative of the temple ideology insists that the god of the temple acts, much as Baal does, to protect his reserve.” (SACRED TEXT AND INTERPRETATION: PERSPECTIVES IN ORTHODOX BIBLICAL STUDIES, p 18)
The Temple in and of itself could not make the people holy, rather the people had to be and remain holy for the Temple to serve its function amidst the people.
“Son of man, this is the place of my throne and the place of the soles of my feet, where I will dwell in the midst of the people of Israel for ever. And the house of Israel shall no more defile my holy name, neither they, nor their kings, by their harlotry, and by the dead bodies of their kings, … They have defiled my holy name by their abominations which they have committed, so I have consumed them in my anger. … And you, son of man, describe to the house of Israel the temple and its appearance and plan, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities. And if they are ashamed of all that they have done, portray the temple, its arrangement, its exits and its entrances, and its whole form; and make known to them all its ordinances and all its laws; and write it down in their sight, so that they may observe and perform all its laws and all its ordinances. This is the law of the temple: the whole territory round about upon the top of the mountain shall be most holy. Behold, this is the law of the temple.” (Ezekiel 43:7-12)
That the Temple did not fulfill the purpose that God envisioned for His tabernacle from the beginning is something commented on by ancient commentators of the scriptures.
“Expounding further upon the differences between God’s Tent and the Jew’s Temple, Chrysostom suggests that the top of Mount Horeb is heaven and the original Tent is that in heaven where Christ dwells. Christ reveals to Moses that identical Tent when he ascended Mount Horeb and met with Him. God entrusts to Moses the exact type, or model, of this Tent, so human beings may have a place to interact and communicate with Him, experience His saving action and miracles, and learn His laws. The Tent of Witness is portable and not bound to any one fixed place, like Jerusalem. Since the Tent of Witness represents the heavenly Church of God, it is not restricted to any locality; and because Christ resides there and invites man to join Him, Chrysostom implies that each Church established by the Apostles during their earthly ministry is the Holy Tent of Witness, the point of union between heaven and earth, heaven itself. Each Tent, as that in the wilderness with Moses, bears witness to Christ’s Sonship with God, thus revealing that the one Church (the Tent of Witness) can be truly seen in the many Churches (Tents) and vice versa.
The Jew’s (God’s people) exchange the Tent of Witness and the living oracles that God gives to them through it for the Temple and sacrifices – a clear demonstration of their blasphemy against God the Holy Spirit – as far back as their forty-year sojourn in the desert following their liberation from Egypt. At the provocation at Horeb, the Jews totally reject the Tent of Witness, and then introduce the sacrifices. Prior to this provocation, Scripture recounts of ‘living oracles,’ life-giving precepts; after it, and as its consequence, Scripture speaks of sacrifices, those evil statutes, and ordinances by which a man shall not live as God desires.” (Protopresbyter Gus Christo, THE CHURCH’S IDENTITY: ESTABLISHED THROUGH IMAGES ACCORDING TO SAINT JOHN CHRYSOSTOM, pp 334-335)
“And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.” (Revelation 21:22)