The Mysterious Temple 

Christ is risen! 


So the Jews answered and said to Him, “What sign do You show to us, since You do these things?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” Then the Jews said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?” But He was speaking of the temple of His body. Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said. (John 2:18-22)

“We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.'” (Mark 14:58)


When we hear in the Bible about the “Temple”, we think about the Temple in Jerusalem. However, the “Temple” is also a spiritual concept in the Bible. Moses when he ascends alone up the holy mountain is shown a pattern/type of the earthly Temple as he gazes into heaven (Exodus 25:40, Hebrews 8:5). In Revelation 21:22, in John’s vision of heaven there is no temple, for the Lord God and the Lamb are the temple. And in the quote above Jesus speaks of the “temple of his body” again giving a spiritual meaning to the concept of temple.  In the book of Hebrews, Christ is presented as far superior to Moses who saw the heavenly pattern for the temple (Hebrews 3).  And, according to Hebrews, Christ enters into the real (heavenly) temple while the Jewish  Jerusalem Temple which is based upon the pattern which was revealed to Moses is only a copy and shadow of the real one (Hebrews 8). For Christians the temple as a theological mystery was far more important than the temple building in Jerusalem which Christ prophesied would be completely destroyed, and whose destruction the Christians did not lament as they saw its purpose superseded by the presence of the incarnate God, Jesus.

St Gregory of Nyssa reflects on the temple/tabernacle as a mystery:

What then is that tabernacle not made with hands which was shown to Moses on the mountain and to which he was commanded to look as to an archetype so that he might reproduce in a handsome structure that marvel not made with hands? . . .


Of what things not made with hands are these an imitation? And what benefit does the material imitation of those things Moses saw there convey to those who look at it? It seems good to me to leave the precise meaning of these things to those who have by the spirit the power to search the depths of God (1 Cor 2:10), and to someone who may be able, as the Apostle says, in the spirit to speak about mysterious things (1 Cor 14:2). We shall leave what we say conjecturally and by supposition on the thought at hand to the judgment of our readers. Their critical intelligence must decide whether it should be rejected or accepted.

[Interesting that Gregory understands the temple to be a significant spiritual concept, a mystery, which he does not want to unpack for his listeners. He thinks it better not to explicate the meanings here because all he could offer was conjecture and supposition, which he thinks better to leave up to each believer rather than for Gregory to dogmatize. The temple/tabernacle in some way reveals Christ, but Gregory thinks it best not to say much more about it, rather he is enthralled by the mystery.]


Taking a hint from what has been said by Paul, who partially uncovered the mystery of these things, we say that Moses was earlier instructed by a type in the mystery of the tabernacle which encompasses the universe. This Tabernacle would be Christ who is the power and the wisdom of God (1 Cor 1:24), who in his own nature was not made with hands, yet capable of being made when it became necessary for this tabernacle to be erected among us. Thus, the same tabernacle is in a way both unfashioned and fashioned, uncreated in preexistence but created in having received this material composition.   (THE LIFE OF MOSES, pp 97-98)


Indeed, He is risen!