The Heart As God’s Temple

As we celebrate the feast of The Meeting of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Temple we realize that the Temple’s purpose was fulfilled – it became the place where God came to earth.  But now Christ is the living temple and so the Temple as a building or area was no longer needed.  In a certain sense, its destruction was a natural result of the fact that it had become superfluous in the life of the people of God.  Christ is everything the Temple was ever meant to be or symbolize.  This idea is already reflected in early Christian writings.  Origen (martyred in 254AD) writes that all of the purpose of the temple ended with the coming of Christ.  The destruction of the Temple was simply eliminating something no longer needed for salvation:

“But when the Word became flesh and lived among us (Jn 1:14), his earthly presence in Jerusalem, with its temple and altar and everything that was borne there, was torn down, at that time her [Israel’s] husband died, i.e., the law according to the letter.  Or will it not rightly be said in this section that the message of the law is dead, since no sacrifices, no priesthood, and no ministries associated with the Levitical order are being offered?  It cannot punish the murderer or stone the adulteress, for the Roman authorities avenge themselves on these things.

Do you still doubt whether the law according to the letter is dead?  No male goes up to appear before the Lord three times a year (Ex 23:17; 34:23; Dt 16:16); no sheep is being slaughtered at the Passover festival in the city that is believed the Lord God had chosen (Dt 16:2); no offering of the piles of first-fruits are being celebrated; no leprous diseases and no defilement of sin are being cleansed.  It is possible to doubt in all these things that the letter of the law is dead?”  (COMMENTARY ON THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS Books 6-10, p 25)

For Origen, the Temple served a similar purpose as the Old Testament Scriptures – they were the covering or flesh of the pre-incarnate Word of God.  But when the Word became flesh in Jesus Christ the shadow of the law as well as the Temple was no longer needed for the Word no longer needed such a covering as He had been fully revealed.  He no loner was hidden in the written word or in the Temple.  Now God was present in Christ in the world.  And Origen realizes that even all that was written about the Temple really was prophecy about Christ.  Jesus has entered the real Temple in heaven as is described in the book of Hebrews (Hebrews 9:11-12, 24).  As Roman Catholic scholar Louis Bouyer says:

“… from now on the Shekinah no longer simply dwells in a sanctuary in the midst of its people: it makes their reconciled hearts its sanctuary.”  (EUCHARIST, p 39)

The Feast of the Lord entering the Temple in Jerusalem is the beginning of God coming to dwell in the hearts of His people rather than in a building, which could never contain Him (2 Chronicles 2:6, 6:18).   No longer do we need concern ourselves with a temple in Jerusalem, for now each of our hearts becomes God’s dwelling place.

For thus says the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite.” (Isaiah 57:15)

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