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Haggai: Prophet of the Greater Temple

Haggai prophesied in the years after the end of Judah's captivity to Babylon. The first major project was to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. This project actually prophesied of a greater temple that was yet to be built made of living stones.

Category - Bible Commentaries

Chapter 1

History of the Three Temples

The prophet Haggai ministered in Jerusalem after the Babylonian captivity while Zerubbabel was the governor. His main focus and calling was to give the word of the Lord to those constructing the second temple. But, as we will see, his prophecies had applications far beyond his time, and his revelation actually applied to a greater temple that was to be built out of living stones.

The first appearance of Christ laid the foundations of this spiritual temple, described in Eph. 2:20-22,

20 having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, 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.

Paul wrote this letter more than two decades after Jesus had been laid in Joseph’s tomb, when the Foundation for this final Temple was laid. This new temple was filled with the Spirit on the day of Pentecost, but the temple was not glorified, because the Pentecostal infilling occurred while the temple was yet “being built.” If we look at the pattern of Solomon’s temple, we find that his temple was filled with the glory of God after it had been completed. Further, it was filled with the Spirit at the feast of Tabernacles, not at Pentecost.

For these reasons, even though we value Pentecost and the partial glory that it brought, we must look for a Tabernacles fulfillment at the end of the Age of Pentecost—in other words, in our time—when this temple is completed. It cannot be completed until the final generation, when the last of the “living stones” (1 Peter 2:5) have been placed in its walls.

We believe that we are living in that final generation. We base our hope and belief in the fact that the Pentecostal Age was patterned on a 40-year period in the Old Testament, which (we believe) prophesied of 40 Jubilees allotted to the Age of Pentecost. The 40 years is seen in Israel’s journey in the wilderness and again in the 40-year reign of King Saul, who was crowned on Pentecost.

The 40th Jubilee of the church in the Pentecostal Age occurred on May 30, 1993. Hence, we are now in a post-Pentecostal interim, making ourselves ready for the Tabernacles Age of the Kingdom.

Both manifestations of Jesus Christ in the earth come with a measure of glory. His first coming secured the glory of Pentecost in Acts 2. His second coming brings a greater measure of glory through the feast of Tabernacles. It is greater because this time His glory will fill a fully-built temple.

Not in Jerusalem

This temple will not be built in the earthly Jerusalem. If the Jews succeed in building a temple in that location, as they plan to do, it will not be filled with God’s glory, because it was abandoned by the presence of God six centuries before Christ. Ezekiel saw the glory depart (Ezekiel 9:3; 10:4; 11:23).

Jeremiah, his contemporary, prophesied in Jer. 7:11 that Solomon’s temple had become “a den of robbers.” He then compared it to Shiloh, the place where the glory of God first rested when Israel entered Canaan (Joshua 18:1).

The glory of God was taken from Shiloh when God judged the corrupt house of Eli, the high priest who refused to correct his sons. When this happened, Ichabod, Eli’s grandson, was born, and he became a prophetic sign, as we read in 1 Sam. 4:21, 22,

21 And she called the boy Ichabod, saying, “The glory has departed from Israel,” because the ark of God was taken, and because of her father-in-law and her husband [who had both died]. 22 And she said, “The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God was taken.”

When the Ark was taken from Israel (that is, Ephraim), it was never brought back to Shiloh, but was given later to Judah after David conquered Jerusalem. So Psalm 78:67-69 tells us,

67 He also rejected the tent of Joseph, and did not choose the tribe of Ephraim, 68 but chose the tribe of Judah, Mount Zion which He loved. 69 And He built His sanctuary like the heights, like the earth which He has founded forever.

Of course, when this psalm was written, they did not realize that the priesthood in Jerusalem too would become as corrupt as it had been in Shiloh under Eli. Two centuries later, Jeremiah finally issued God’s verdict upon that temple. And because so many assumed that Jerusalem was the final abode of God’s presence in the earth, the prophet reminded them of what God did to Shiloh. Jer. 7:12-15 says,

12 “But go now to My place which was in Shiloh, where I made My name dwell at the first, and see what I did to it because of the wickedness of My people Israel. 13 And now, because you have done all these things,” declares the Lord… 14 “therefore, I will do to the house which is called by My name, in which you trust, and to the place which I gave you and your fathers, as I did to Shiloh. 15 And I will cast you out of My sight, as I have cast out all your brothers, all the offspring of Ephraim.”

Did the people really think that God would remain in Jerusalem in spite of its corruption, when He had already forsaken Shiloh for its corruption? God is not partial in His judgments. When God left Shiloh, He never returned or looked back. Instead, he chose a new dwelling place. Likewise, when God left Jerusalem, He never returned or looked back, but chose a new dwelling place in a temple made of living stones.

Paul tells us in 1 Cor. 3:16,

16 Do you not know that you are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?

Since Pentecost, each of us individually is a temple in which the Spirit of God dwells. But collectively, we are being built as a new temple built on the chief corner stone of Christ and the foundation of the apostles and prophets. Pentecost makes us each Spirit-filled temples of God, but only the feast of Tabernacles can fill the collective temple, built with the many “stones” that Pentecost has filled.

Many, however, believe that the earthly Jerusalem will again see a temple, where the presence of Christ will dwell. They do not understand that when He left Jerusalem as Shiloh, it was because He had declared Ichabod on that place. Other prophets do tell us that Jerusalem will be blessed by His presence, but most people fail to understand that there are two Jerusalems: earthly and heavenly.

The Hebrew name for the city is Ierushalayim, which means literally “two Jerusalems.” The Old Testament prophets never clearly distinguish between the two cities in their prophecies. It remains for the New Testament writers to clarify the difference between the two cities. Hence, in Rev. 21 John takes the prophecies of “Jerusalem” in Isaiah 60 and applies them to the New Jerusalem.

This is the key to understanding the mind of God in regard to the new temple that He is building. It is also the key to understanding Haggai’s prophecies of the temple, for even though on the surface he stirred up the people to build the second temple, his prophecies really applied to a greater spiritual temple yet to be built. That physical temple in Jerusalem was only a prophetic type of the New Jerusalem temple.

In the end, the proof is in the fact that the second temple contained no Ark of the Covenant. Neither was it glorified by God’s presence like what was seen in Solomon’s temple. It appeared that Haggai hoped to see the glory of God fill that temple in Hag. 2:9, for this word was given to him on the 7th day of Tabernacles (Hag. 2:1). But this did not happen. Neither was that temple “greater than the former” (Hag. 2:9), for it was only a shadow of the greatness of Solomon’s temple.

The fact is that the glory of God could never fill the second temple, even though they built it by divine instruction. It had no Ark, and the place itself had Ichabod written on it. The glory will never return to the earthly Jerusalem. His glory has been promised to a greater temple made of living stones, a temple that He planned from the beginning.

Thus, Haggai is a prophet of the greater temple, while the one that was built in his time was only a type and shadow, a temporary place to worship and offer sacrifice.

Haggai’s name literally means “festive,” from the Hebrew root word hag, “feast, festival.” Names have meaning and often signify one’s calling or character. In this case, the prophet’s name reveals his calling to prepare the hearts of the people for the feast of Tabernacles and the coming of God’s glory to fill His temple.