The Temple that cannot be defiled

God is Spirit and is invisible in the material world, apart from His moving in and through tangible things. Similarly He abides with us by ‘indwelling’ part of His creation.

God allows Satan to exercise power as ‘prince of the world’ and to resist the Divine presence in his earthly domain. Satan directs his efforts at God’s sanctuary – since the Holy God will remove Himself from a corrupted dwelling place.

While God’s Temple stood in Jerusalem, the onslaught was focussed there. Those who conquered Israel also violated her sanctuary. E.g. Antiochus drenched the altar with pig’s blood. Israel acted as custodian of the Divine presence and valiantly opposed invading armies. But God instructed Moses: “have them make a sanctuary for Me, and I will dwell among them” (Exodus 25:8). The Hebrew phrase “will live among them” (ושׁכנתי בתוכם) also means “live within them”. The alternative interpretation is supported by Isaiah, where it is written: “I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit … ” (Isaiah 57:15).

However, Israel had, for the most part, misconceived the true enemy. Israel’s sanctity was not threatened by foreign aggression (which God would Himself defeat on condition of Israel’s obedience – Deut. 28), but by the insidious and subtle advances of sin, which defiled the soul of the people of God.

‘Her leaders judge for a bribe, her priests teach for a price, and her prophets tell fortunes for money. Yet they lean upon the LORD and say, “Is not the LORD among us? No disaster will come upon us.” Therefore because of you, Zion will be plowed like a field, Jerusalem will become a heap of rubble, the temple hill a mound overgrown with thickets’. (Micah 3:11-12)

“The people of Judah have done evil in my eyes, declares the LORD. They have set up their detestable idols in the house that bears my Name and have defiled it.” (Jeremiah 7:30)

It was for the sin of His own people that God departed from their midst. Ezekiel saw the shechinah depart from Solomon’s Temple – and it never returned to that place.

God with us

The prophet Isaiah said: “Behold, the virgin will conceive and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call His name Immanuel [meaning ‘God with us’]” (Isaiah 7:14).

The name “Immanuel” reveals a deep mystery about the person of Messiah, namely that he would be a Temple for God in human form. As God once appeared in the edifice on Mount Moriah, He would appear in the person of Messiah.

Jesus spoke of his own body when he said, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days” (John 2:19). The Gospels testify that the Spirit of God descended visibly upon Jesus (Luke 3:22), and the glory that departed from Solomon’s Temple reappeared in him (Matthew 17:2). The apostle Paul understood this mystery and explained:

“He is the image of the invisible God”

“God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in him”

“The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being”.

As Israel once came to God on the Temple Mount – to worship God, not the Temple – Israel would henceforth meet with God in the person of Messiah (“No one comes to the Father except through me” – John 14:6). We come to Messiah to worship the Eternal God who dwelt in him and manifested His glory in him, i.e. we worship the God who indwelt the human form, and not the human form. [1.]

And truly Jesus was ‘God with us’!

The Temple that cannot be defiled

Those living under the Law of Moses were susceptible to continual defilement – through childbirth, emissions, contact with the dead, with lepers and with women during their menstruations. Under the Law, the entire course of life from birth to death is defiling. That the Temple of the Sinai Covenant was itself prone to contamination is clear from the fact that it could not admit women, lepers and Gentiles into its inner parts. The Law of Moses could not permanently cleanse those who came to worship, nor could its Temple serve as an inviolable dwelling place of God among men. The sad history of that edifice proves the point.

The sinless Messiah, on the other hand, is the incorruptible Temple of God. Jesus works on a principle opposite to that found in the Law. He lovingly touched lepers and corpses in the full confidence of his absolute sanctity. Life and healing flowed naturally from the One who could never be rendered unclean. Knowing this mystery, a woman dared even to touch him in secret, though she had been bleeding for twelve years.

Being incorruptible, it is in this Temple that God has ordained to reconcile all things unto Himself. “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation – if you continue in your faith” (Colossians 1:19-22). [2]

While the Law could only contain the consequences of sin, Jesus came to reverse them. Whatever touches him becomes clean. Paul explained to the synagogue in Pisidian Antioch: “The one whom God raised from the dead did not see decay. Therefore I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. And by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses” (Acts 13: 37-38, ESV).

No wonder the demons fled and Satan was bound for a thousand years!

Living stones

Yet Jesus was not given on that occasion to remain with us for all time.

The Temple of the New Covenant is made up of those witnesses of Messiah who have received a measure of the Spirit that was upon him. The community of the faithful are now described as “his body”, and “the fullness of him who fills everything in every way” (Ephesians 1:23).

Yet again, this Temple is both subject to defilement and constantly under Satan’s attack. It is also in this body that the Son of Perdition will set himself up, to exalt himself above all things that are called God or worshipped.

As was the case with ancient Israel, many Christians are increasingly blinded to the true threat and the true target of defilement. Many battle once more against flesh and blood (contrary to New Testament teaching), but fail to guard entry into their own hearts. It is “Christ in us, the hope of glory” that we need to defend. And for this we need only “the full armour of God”.

If the visible church – as in the typology of ancient Israel – is completely and utterly defiled, what then is left of the dwelling place of God? Yet no sooner will Satan think he has driven God from his earthly domain, than the incorruptible Temple will descend from heaven. At that moment all who are ‘found in him’ will be revealed, eternally and perfectly cleansed.

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away …

“I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendour into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honour of the nations will be brought into it. Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” (Revelation 21 -22)


The apostle Paul despaired when believers in Messiah, heirs to these glorious revelations, abandoned them and returned to the weak and beggarly (by comparison) principles of the Mosaic Law. “You observe days and months and seasons and years! I am afraid I may have laboured over you in vain.” (Galatians 4:10-11). The writer to the Hebrews, on the other hand, was confident that “we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved”.

How can ‘righteous souls made perfect’ live under a Law that perpetuates defilement? Any why should God revert to a dwelling place that is subject to contagion, now that He has occupied an incorruptible Temple?

[1] Compare this to Chasidic teaching: “The Baal Shem brought about a radical shift in the religious outlook of Jewry. In ancient times the sanctuary in Jerusalem had been the holy centre from which expiation and blessing radiated out to the world. But the sanctuary was in ruins, the soul of Israel in mourning. Then the Baal Shem established a new centre: the tzaddik, the rebbe – he was to be the sanctuary. For the Baal Shem believed that a man could be the true dwelling place of the Divine.” Abraham Joshua Heschel, A Passion for Truth, Secker & Warburg, London, 1973.

[2] There are interesting parallels between this revelation of the New Testament and the teachings of the Zohar, which first appeared in Spain in the 13th century, but was reportedly written in the second century of the Christian era. The Zohar teaches that the first two Temples were edifices built by human hands, and thus subject to the mortality of everything human. In the case of these two temples, God came to dwell in the work of man, but the work of man can be corrupted by the deeds of man, driving the Divine presence from its earthly abode. The two mortal Temples were thus destroyed in order that the eternal Temple may be built (based on an interpretation of the midrash in Yalkut Shimoni, Jeremiah 25:9). “Indeed, the Temple was originally designed to be a Divinely-constructed edifice – the song of Moses speaks of ‘the Sanctuary, O Lord, that Your hands have established’ (Exodus 15:17). The Temples built by Solomon and Ezra were thus nothing more than stages in the construction of the [ultimate] Temple, the Divine edifice which shall descend from heaven together with Moshiach” (see Yanki Tauber, ‘The Legalities of Destruction’ on