In I Corinthians 3:9 and 16 Paul says, “For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building. … Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” What was the apostle Paul referring to as God’s building or temple in this passage? Many interpret this as referring to the human body. But a closer look at the context (chapter 3:1) shows that it is the church as a whole that Paul was referring to as the temple of God. God’s church is His temple on earth. The question is, Is the building of God’s temple complete?
Notice what the pen of inspiration says: “Through the ages that have passed since the days of the apostles, the building of God’s temple has never ceased. …
“Paul and the other apostles, and all the righteous who have lived since then, have acted their part in the building of the temple. But the structure is not yet complete. We who are living in this age have a work to do, a part to act.” The Acts of the Apostles, 598, 599. Friends, the temple is not yet complete. You and I have a work to do and a part to act.
And with what are we to complete the temple? In the book, Our High Calling, 141, Inspiration says, “The law and the gospel go hand in hand. The one is the complement of the other. The law without faith in the gospel of Christ cannot save the transgressor of law. The gospel without the law is inefficient and powerless. The law and the gospel are a perfect whole. … The two blended—the gospel of Christ and the law of God—produce the love and faith unfeigned.” So with this in mind, let’s consider completing the temple with the law of God, and in a future article (LandMarks, December 2013) we will consider completing the temple with the gospel of Jesus.
In Exodus 25:2, 8, God tells Moses: “Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring Me an offering … And let them make Me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them.” This is a reference to the sanctuary built by Moses which was “the example and shadow of heavenly things.” Hebrews 8:5. What was it that made this sanctuary holy? Exodus 29:43 says, “And there I will meet with the children of Israel, and the tabernacle shall be sanctified by My glory.” Notice that it was the glory of God, or His presence, that sanctified the sanctuary and made it holy. And what was it that signified the glory or presence of God? “Then a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter into the tent of the congregation, because the cloud abode thereon, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.” Exodus 40:34, 35. The presence of the cloud signified the presence of the Lord, and this cloud signified God’s presence throughout Israel’s journey in the wilderness.
Now while this is true, there was something else that also signified the glory of the Lord, not only during the time of Israel’s journey, but also during the time of Israel’s monarchy. “And when the Philistines heard the noise of the shout, they said, What meaneth the noise of this great shout in the camp of the Hebrews? And they understood that the ark of the Lord was come into the camp. And the Philistines were afraid, for they said, God is come into the camp. And they said, Woe unto us! for there hath not been such a thing heretofore.” I Samuel 4:6, 7. Notice the connection between the ark of the Lord and the presence of God. In verses 21, 22 we read, “And she named the child Ichabod, saying, The glory is departed from Israel: because the ark of God was taken, and because of her father in law and her husband. And she said, The glory is departed from Israel: for the ark of God is taken.” Notice how the ark of God signified the glory or presence of God, not only in the wilderness sanctuary, but wherever it was placed.
In the book Patriarchs and Prophets, 584, this point is magnified: “The most terrifying calamity that could occur had befallen Israel. The ark of God had been captured, and was in the possession of the enemy. The glory had indeed departed from Israel when the symbol of the abiding presence and power of Jehovah was removed from the midst of them.” According to this quotation, the ark of God was the symbol of God’s presence and power.
Now there is another point worthy of notice. In Exodus 29:43, God said that He would meet with Israel at the tabernacle. Just where in the tabernacle did communion with God occur? “And thou shalt put the mercy seat above upon the ark; and in the ark thou shalt put the testimony that I shall give thee. And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubims which are upon the ark of the testimony, of all things which I will give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel.” Exodus 25:21, 22.
Here we learn that communion with God occurred where the mercy seat and the ark of the testament were. These two articles were found in the most holy place of the tabernacle. Now we know that the high priest was not allowed to enter the most holy place except for one day out of the year. However, every day the priest appeared before the altar of incense to offer sweet incense, which was a symbol of prayers mingled with the righteousness of Christ. The altar of incense was located in the holy place, just before the veil that separated the holy from the most holy place. Now the fact that communion with God occurred where the mercy seat and the ark of the testament were shows the connection between the law of God, the mercy of God, and the voice of God. Wherever God’s law and mercy are found, there is where God’s voice can be found. On the other hand, wherever God’s law or God’s mercy is absent, there we can be sure that God’s voice is absent. The commandments of God and the faith of Jesus are the truth, and neither can save the sinner by itself; both must be united.
In I Kings 8:13, Solomon said, “I have surely built Thee an house to dwell in, a settled place for Thee to abide in for ever.” To what house was Solomon here referring? We know it as Solomon’s temple, because it was the temple he built for the worship of the God of heaven. And what do you think it was in this house (temple) that signified the presence of God? In verses 6, 10, 11 we read, “And the priests brought in the ark of the covenant of the Lord unto his place, into the oracle of the house, to the most holy place. … And it came to pass, when the priests were come out of the holy place, that the cloud filled the house of the Lord, So that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud: for the glory of the Lord had filled the house of the Lord.” So, again we see a cloud signifying the presence of God. As the cloud filled the temple, the glory of God filled the temple. The glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud. Now while this is true, notice again the connection between God’s presence and God’s law. It was not until the priest put the ark of the covenant in its rightful place that the glory of the Lord filled the house. The ark of the covenant, along with its mercy seat, was a symbol of the abiding presence and power of Jehovah, and wherever God’s law and mercy were found, there is where God’s presence could be found.
In Revelation 11:19 the Bible says, “And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in His temple the ark of His testament.” Historic Adventists understand that this prophecy was fulfilled in 1844, when Jesus closed the door of the holy place in the sanctuary above and opened the door to the most holy place. And when Jesus entered the most holy place, He called the attention of the Advent believers to the ark of the testament. We know that there is a sanctuary in heaven, and in this sanctuary can be found the law of God as well as the throne of grace. Therefore, we know that God is present in the heavenly sanctuary, but what about the earthly sanctuary? Is there anywhere on earth where God’s law and mercy should be found? Yes, friends, it should be found in God’s earthly temple, i.e. the church. “Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples.” “… as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!” Isaiah 8:16; Romans 10:15.
Now concerning the law of God, where in the church should it be found? In Hebrews 8:10 Paul says, “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put My laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts … .” The ark of the covenant, i.e. the law of God, must be found in the hearts of the people of God. This is the goal of the new covenant, to restore man to the image of God. This restoration can occur only as man is brought back into harmony with God’s law. And when this occurs, then God’s presence will be with that man and, consequently, with the church.
Friends, is the law of God written upon the table of your heart? Can you say, as did David, “I delight to do Thy will, O my God: yea, Thy law is within my heart.” Psalm 40:8. Do you take pleasure in doing the will of God? Do you take pleasure in self-denial, in the crucifixion of your sinful desires? When we come to the point where we take pleasure in doing God’s will, in self-denial, we are on our way to heaven, and God’s law is being woven into our characters. The completion of the temple will be accomplished.
Earlier we learned that the law of God must be found in the heart of God’s people. Now if it is not in its rightful place, then the glory or presence of God, to a great degree, is absent. On the other hand, if the law of God is restored to its rightful place, what do you think would happen? Inspiration tells us, “It is only as the law of God is restored to its rightful position that there can be a revival of primitive faith and godliness among His [God’s] professed people.” The Great Controversy, 478.
Would you like to see a revival of primitive faith and godliness? Would you like to see God’s temple completed and His work finished? Many Adventists want God to finish His work on earth. We have a longing to enter our heavenly home. But many Adventists are not ready for God to finish His work. We want to participate in the loud cry, but we are not willing to keep the commandments of God. Friends, God will finish His work. The question is, will we have a part in the completion of this work, or will we have a part in its hindrance?
What is the greatest obstacle in the church that must be eliminated if God’s temple is to be completed? In Spiritual Gifts, vol. 2, 236, we read, “The greatest sin which now exists in the church is covetousness.”
This statement was made during the early 1860s, and if covetousness was the greatest sin then, when the church was poorer than it is today, then this statement is even truer today when the church, especially in America, is rich and increased with goods, and appears to be in need of nothing. The reason covetousness is such a great obstacle is because as human beings we have desires, but because of our lack of self-control, we allow our desires to overpower our ability to reason and make moral decisions. And as a result, we find ourselves thinking that our strong desires are legitimate when, in reality, we are being greedy and covetous.
Friends, we must guard ourselves against covetousness, against the cravings for possessions. Instead of coveting the Babylonish garments of this world, we should be coveting the righteous robe of Jesus Christ. Beware and take heed of covetousness. For life does not consist of the abundance of the things which one possesses. Therefore, be content with such things as you have because godliness with contentment is great gain, even the gain of the righteousness of Christ.
When God’s children today have put away all covetousness and by faith wear the robe of Christ’s righteousness, then the temple will be complete, and Christ can return to take up residence therein.
Demario Carter is currently a Bible worker for Steps to Life.