Throughout the Bible, everyone and everything emerges from within the same story – God’s story. Every New Testament teaching about our new life in Jesus Christ overlaps and compliments the others. This is especially the case as we consider one of the New Testament’s most contextualized metaphors for Jesus’ followers:
“We are the temple of the living God.”
(2 Corinthians 6:16)
To appreciate the significance of this verse (and others like it), let’s trace this line of thought forward from its origin in Creation.
Creation. When God created, there was no temple. Creation was whole. There was no division between heavenly and earthly realms. Creation was God’s resting place. It was home. God was fully present to people and people fully present to God. People walked with God. They talked with God. They knew the sound of God approaching. God wasn’t present in special places; he was just present.
Israel. Part of the fallout of humanity’s rebellion was the veil that came to exist between the heavenly and earthly realms of Creation. Humanity was exiled from the presence of God.
As we know, God did not stand idly by with his creative intentions for humanity shattered. In short order, redemption was underway. God called Abraham and set his descendants apart from the nations as cooperative participants in the redemptive plan for all creation.
A major aspect of Israel’s uniqueness was that they were called to build and care for the Temple –- the one place on earth where the heavens and earth would remain intertwined…the place where God would dwell. The Temple was a testimony to the way things were supposed to be. It was filled with the imagery of creation as a reminder that God’s rightful dwelling place with humanity was not confined to the Temple.
Unfortunately, Israel fell to the same fate as humanity: rebellion and sin. After repeated calls for Israel to repent and return to God and his purposes for the nation, the presence of God departed the Temple. Shortly thereafter, the building itself was destroyed in the Babylonian invasion. Rebellion once again led to exile: God’s people were separated from their God-given dwelling place and from God’s presence.
Jesus. With Jesus, everything changed. Sin was forgiven. Exile ended. God returned. He became present with his people in a manner anyone could see and experience, but no one could have predicted.
Everything the Temple represented and every religious purpose it served was fulfilled in and through Jesus Christ.
Then, despite all Jesus accomplished, his first disciples watched him ascend back into the heavens a short while after his resurrection. God departed again. And the disciples were told to wait… (Luke 24:49)
Church. On the day of Pentecost, the unthinkable happened. Per Jesus’ instructions, his followers had gathered to wait and to pray. Then suddenly, in a scene reminiscent of 2 Chronicles 7 when the Spirit descended and filled Solomon’s Temple:
“There came a sound from heaven like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit…”
The Spirit of God returned as the people of Israel had long been hoping –- only not in the manner they anticipated. It was not to a rebuilt Temple that the Spirit returned. No longer would a single high priest enter God’s presence on one solitary day each year.
The Holy Spirit came and filled Jesus’ disciples! In and through Jesus Christ, the disciples became the new Temple/s:
- the resting place of God
- the place in Creation that is once again whole –- where God’s presence resides
- the witness in the world of the way things are supposed to be and will one day be again fully
As Jesus’ disciples, we are the temples of God in the world today. We are the intersection of the heavens and the earth. We are the witnesses of the way things were always supposed to be and the way they will one day be again. We are foretastes of what it truly means to be human. The Holy Spirit has come to dwell within us to empower us for this very high calling (Acts 1:8). In response, let us learn to live and walk by the Spirit:
- Living intentionally.
- Remembering where our story began & anticipating where it’s going.
- Pursuing ongoing apprenticeship unto Jesus.
- Loving sacrificially.
- Living an eternal kind of life here & now.
- Establishing our allegiance in Jesus’ eternal kingdom.
- Showing the rest of the world how to live well here & now…
WHEN JESUS IS KING.
(Excerpt from Reimagining Discipleship)