God's Kingdom Ministries
Serious Bible Study



Chapter 8: The True Temple

Paul used the dividing wall in the temple as a metaphor to describe the unlawful divisions that threatened the unity of the “one new man.” Jesus prayed for unity in John 17:21,

21 that they may all be one, even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.

Paul’s favored term is peace. Unity brings peace to the body, where each body part has a different function but does not fight the other parts of the body.

Paul’s main point was to assure the Ephesians (and all the “Uncircumcision”) that they were in no way inferior to “the so-called Circumcision” (Eph. 2:11) in their status and position with Father God. The “dividing wall” in the temple, which separated Jewish men from women and Gentiles, had been abolished in Christ.

This wall was never valid in the eyes of God, so it was not to be retained in the final temple that God was building out of living stones.

The removal of the dividing wall clearly establishes that the “chosen people” include all who are of faith and not those who may claim such status by reason of their genealogy. Those who are called to rule are not the fleshly seed of Abraham but those who share the faith of Abraham (Gal. 3:7).

In Paul’s day, this was a radical idea that addressed the problem of disunity and enmity between the two groupings. The same disunity has arisen in the past 150 years and needs to be addressed again.

Eph. 2:16-18 says,

16 and might reconcile them both [Jews and Gentiles] in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. 17 And He came and preached peace to you who were far away [i.e., Gentiles], and peace to those who were near [Jews]; 18 for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father.

All have equal “access” to God—men, women, and gentiles.

Before continuing, it would be helpful to study the word “Gentile” (ethnos), for if we do not clearly define our terms, we will surely leave room for misunderstanding.

The Meaning of the word Gentile

The word gentile is derived from the Latin word gentilis, which in turn was derived from gens, “clan.” In later times, this Latin word was applied to pagans.

However, the Greek word ethnos, used in the New Testament, refers generally to an ethnic group. Its Hebrew equivalent is goy or goyim (plural). Both the Greek and Hebrew words are usually translated “nation.” The words themselves do not necessarily distinguish between the Jewish nation and other nations, even though men often applied these words to other nations (i.e., “the Gentiles”).

But yet the Bible gives us many examples where the words apply specifically to Israel or to the nation of Judea. In Gen. 12:2 God told Abraham, “I will make you a great nation” (goy). Did God make Abraham a great gentile?

Centuries later, God appeared to Jacob in a dream, telling him, “do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you a great nation [goy] there” (Gen. 46:3). Was Israel a gentile nation? It is clear that goy is the Hebrew word for “nation,” whether Israel or some other.

In the Greek New Testament, John 11:49-52 says,

49 But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all, 50 nor do you take into account that it is expedient for you that one man die for the people and that the whole nation [ethnos] not perish. 51 Now he did not say this on his own initiative, but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation [ethnos], 52 and not for the nation [ethnos] only, but in order that He might also gather together into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.

The context makes it clear that Caiaphas was speaking of his own nation—Judea. He did not intend to say that Jesus should die for “Gentiles,” even though God actually tricked him into prophesying about the Gentiles as well! John himself interpreted this passage in verse 52 to include “the children of God who are scattered abroad.”

Who were those “children of God”? Some limit them to the ex-Israelites of the dispersion. Certainly, they were to be included among the ethnos being regathered. But the regathering of the lost tribes of Israel was also to include “others,” for we read in Isaiah 56:6-8,

6 Also the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord… 7 even those I will bring to My holy mountain and make them joyful in My house of prayer… For My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples. 8 The Lord God, who gathers the dispersed of Israel, declares, “Yet others I will gather to them, to those already gathered.

The great regathering of the lost sheep of the house of Israel did not exclude “foreigners.” The prophet refers to Solomon’s prayer of dedication, where the king prays “concerning the foreigner who is not of Your people Israel” (1 Kings 8:41). He asks God to “hear in heaven Your dwelling place and do according to all for which the foreigner calls to You, in order that all the peoples of the earth may know Your name” (1 Kings 8:43).

Again, Solomon says toward the end of his prayer (1 Kings 8:60),

60 so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God; there is no one else.

Centuries later, Isaiah added to this prophecy, clarifying the fact that the temple invited all ethnic groups to worship there. There was no dividing wall in that temple, for such a feature was not part of the temple plan given to David. The dividing wall was part of Herod’s temple. Jesus came to destroy that dividing wall so that the construction of the third temple in the latter days would be open to all.

In other words, the “one new man” is the prophesied third temple that God is building—and it is being built upon the prayer of Solomon and the prophecy of Isaiah. Jesus’ death on the cross put out the invitation for the dispersed Israelites to regather under the headship of Christ, according to Jacob’s prophecy in Gen. 49:10,

10 The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto Him shall the gathering [yeqaha] of the people be.

The word yeqaha has to do with obedience or submission to “Shiloh,” which is a messianic term. It spoke of the end of the age when the scepter would depart from Judah and be given to Shiloh. Isaiah prophesied of this “gathering,” telling us that foreigners would be gathered to Christ along with the dispersed Israelites.

Paul, who draws heavily from Isaiah’s writings, affirms this idea as a major part of his calling, for he defends the “Gentiles” against those who would marginalize them or give them lesser standing before God.

The Third Temple

Two temples were built in Jerusalem in the past. The first was Solomon’s temple, which was destroyed by the Babylonians after a few centuries. After the Babylonian captivity, the Persian King Cyrus allowed the people to return to the old land and to rebuild the temple. Persia even funded its construction (Ezra 6:8).

Yet that second temple was never glorified by God’s presence. One may attribute this to the fact that the Ark of the Covenant had been lost, thereby making the Most Holy Place a dark empty room. Alfred Edersheim, in his book, The Temple, page 58, tells us that a stone was put in the spot where the Ark should have rested.

“… and beyond them the altar of incense, near the entrance to the Most Holy. The latter was now quite empty, a large stone, on which the high-priest sprinkled the blood on the Day of Atonement, occupying the place where the ark with the mercy-seat had stood.”

Again, he tells us on page 61,

“The Holy of Holies was quite empty, the ark of the covenant, with the cherubim, the tables of the law, the book of the covenant, Aaron’s rod that budded, and the pot of manna, were no longer in the sanctuary. The fire that had descended from heaven upon the altar was extinct. What was far more solemn, the visible presence of the Shekinah was wanting.”

In his description of the Day of Atonement, Edersheim tells us what the stone in the Most Holy Place was called:

“In the first temple the ark of God had stood there with the mercy-seat overshadowing it; above it, the visible presence of Jehovah in the cloud of the Shekinah, and on either side the outspread wings of the cherubim; and the high priest had placed the censer between the staves of the ark. But in the Temple of Herod there was neither Shechinah nor ark—all was empty; and the high priest rested his censer on a large stone, called the ‘foundation stone’.” (p. 314)

Thus, Paul says in 1 Cor. 3:11,

11 For no one can lay a foundation [themelios] other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

Perhaps he was not referring to the foundation of the temple itself, but rather the foundation stone that had been laid in the Most Holy Place in the spot where the ark should have rested. It seems that this foundation stone, which had replaced the Ark of the Covenant, prophesied of Christ who had replaced the physical Ark.

Paul again uses the term in Eph. 2:19, 20,

19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, 20 having been built on the foundation [themelios, “first principles”] of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone.

This foundation stone was also a metaphor for First Principles, or Foundational Teachings. This, it seems, was how Paul used the term in Eph. 2:20, since here the foundation represented “the apostles and prophets,” rather than Jesus Christ Himself (as in 1 Cor. 3:11). The apostles and prophets were not Christ Himself, yet they represented Him insofar as teaching was concerned.

Eph. 2:21, 22 closes out this passage,

21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.

This is the third temple that is prophesied in Scripture—including the temple pictured in Ezekiel 40-47. Though Ezekiel used Old Covenant terminology, we cannot interpret it with Old Covenant eyes.

Even the second temple had no Shekinah, because it was built upon a cursed site that God forsook “as Shiloh” (Jer. 7:14). Just as God forsook Shiloh and never returned, so also God forsook Jerusalem. The second temple was certainly ordained by God, but yet it was never glorified with the presence of God as the first temple had been.

The reason is that God had planned a better temple that was not made with physical stones but with “living stones,” as we read in 1 Peter 2:5, 6,

5 you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For this is contained in Scripture: “Behold, I lay in Zion a choice stone, a precious corner stone, and he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.”

Peter says that this is “a spiritual house,” not a physical temple that might be built as a third temple in Jerusalem. The sacrifices of this spiritual house are also spiritual, for animal sacrifices are no longer “acceptable to God.” The notion that a third temple will be built on the old site (which God forsook “as Shiloh”) is not the view presented in the New Testament. Neither will God again raise up Levitical priests to offer up lambs, goats, and bulls in Jerusalem. Such a view goes contrary to the foundational New Covenant teachings of the apostles and prophets.