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CHRIST THE MILLENNIAL TEMPLE

Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr. —  April 5, 2012 — 6 Comments

Many commentators note John’s demonstrating Jesus’ fulfillment of the temple (John 2) as one of the purposes of his Gospel, as well as his fulfilling the Sabbath (John 5), the Passover (John 6), and the Feast of Tabernacles (John 7).(1) His people in mystical union with him are called his “body” (Rom 12:5; 1 Cor 12:27; Eph 4:12). Thus, we who are his people are also designated a “temple” (1 Cor 3:16–17; 6:19; 2 Cor 6:16; Eph 2:19–20; 1 Pet 2:5–9). This is due to his indwelling presence among us, so that we, having the true temple within, may be called a temple. Christ in us is the hope of glory (Col 1:27). Not only is he who is the true temple in us, but we are also “in Christ.” (2)

Thus, prophecies regarding the temple’s rebuilding (when not referring to Zerubbabel’s Old Testament temple) speak of Christ and his building his Church (Matt 16:18; cf. Zec 6:12–13). He himself is the foundation and cornerstone (Luke 20:17; 1 Cor 3:11, 16–17; Eph 2:20). As Christ’s people we are priests (Rom 15:16; 1 Pet 2:5, 9; Rev 1:6) who offer our bodies as living sacrifices (Rom 12:1–2) and our service as acceptable sweet smell offerings (2 Cor 2:14–16; Phil 4:18; Heb 13:15–16; 1 Pet 2:5). Thus, “we have an altar from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat” (Heb 13:10). As he converts more people by his sovereign grace, his new covenant temple grows stone by stone (Eph 2:21; 4:12, 16; 1 Pet 2:5, 9). As a master builder Paul labors in that temple (1 Cor 3: 9–17).

Through a series of Old Testament temple and ritual allusions, Paul points to the new temple of God:

And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” Therefore “Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. (2 Cor 6:16–7:1)

So, as Clowney well notes, “we must recognize that this is not spiritualization in our usual sense of the word, but the very opposite. In Christ is realization. It is not so much that Christ fulfills what the temple means; rather Christ is the meaning for which the temple existed.” (3)

Taylor well distills the basic ideas in Ezekiel’s complex temple vision: First, the building’s immaculate symmetry portrays the perfection of God’s plan for his people. Second, the meticulous detail of the rites indicates the centrality of worship in the new covenant era. Third, the focus on the temple points to God’s abiding presence with his redeemed community. Fourth, the waters of life flowing from the temple express Holy Spirit’s life-giving operation in the new age. Fifth, the careful allocation of levitical duties and land apportionment speak of the duties and privileges of God’s people in the future.



Footnotes

1. See: David E. Holwerda, Jesus and Israel: One Covenant or Two? (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995), 77.

2.  Rom 3:24; 6:11, 23; 8:1, 2; 39; 9:1; 12:5; 15:17; 16:3, 7, 9,10; 1 Cor 1:2, 30; 3:1; 4:10, 15, 17; 15:18, 19, 22, 31; 16:24 2 Cor 1:21; 2:14, 17; 3:14; 5:17, 19; 11:3; 12:2, 19; Gal 1:22; 2:4, 16; 3:14, 17, 26, 28; 5:6; 6:15; Eph 1:1, 3, 10, 12, 20; 2:6, 7, 10, 13; 3:11; 4:32; Phil 1:1, 13; 2:1, 5; 3:3, 9, 14; 4:21; Col 1:2, 4, 28; 2:5; 1 Thess 2:14; 4:16; 5:18; 1 Tim 1:14; 2:7; 3:13; 2 Tim 1:1, 9, 13; 2:1, 10; 3:12, 15.

3. Edmund P. Clowney, “The Final Temple,” Westminster Theological Journal, 35.2 (1973): 119.

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Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

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Ken is a Presbyterian pastor and the author or co-author of over thirty books, most on eschatology. He has been married since 1971, and has three children and several grandchildren. He is a graduate of Tennessee Temple University (B.A., 1973), Reformed Theological Seminary (M.Div., 1977), and Whitefield Theological Seminary (Th.M., 1986; Th.D., 1988). He currently pastors Living Hope Presbyterian Church (affiliated with the RPCGA) in Greer, SC. Much of his writing is in the field of eschatology, including his 600 page book, He Shall Have Dominion: A Postmillennial Eschatology and his 400 page, Before Jerusalem Fell: Dating the Book of Revelation (his Th.D. dissertation). He contributed chapters to two Zondervan CounterPoints books on eschatological issues: Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond (edited by Darrell L. Bock) and Four Views on the Book of Revelation (edited by C. Marvin Pate). He also debated Thomas D. Ice in Kregel's The Great Tribulation: Past or Future? His books have been published by American Vision, Baker, Zondervan, Kregel, P & R, Greenhaven Press, Nordskog, Wipf & Stock, and several other publishers. He has published scores of articles in such publications as Tabletalk, Westminster Theological Journal, Evangelical Theological Society Journal, Banner of Truth, Christianity Today, Antithesis, Contra Mundum, and others. He has spoken at over 80 conferences in America, the Caribbean, and Australia. He is a member of the Evangelical Theological Society and a Church Council Committee member of Coalition on Revival.

6 responses to CHRIST THE MILLENNIAL TEMPLE

  1. Great article Ken!

  2. You note John 5 as Jesus fulfilling the Sabbath. Aren’t we still supposed to keep it?

    • Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr. April 5, 2012 at 6:30

      Yes, we are supposed to keep the Sabbath. But it pointed to Christ as the ultimate giver of rest.

  3. Another great article .

  4. In Christ is realization. It is not so much that Christ fulfills what the Sabbath means; rather Christ is the meaning for which the Sabbath existed. CHRIST is our Sabbath

  5. If we are the temple of God and are called to be separate from the world, what about eating unlcean meats and sea food? We are not the “temple” if we do such things?

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