The Cleansing of the Temple

The second chapter of John tells us what happened when Jesus cleansed the temple the first time. Remember, Jesus cleansed the temple once at the beginning and again at the close of His ministry.

“As He beholds the scene, indignation, authority, and power are expressed in His countenance. The attention of the people is attracted to Him. The eyes of those engaged in their unholy traffic are riveted upon his face. They cannot withdraw their gaze. They feel that this man reads their inmost thoughts, and discovers their hidden motives. Some attempt to conceal their faces, as if their evil deeds were written upon their countenances, to be scanned by those searching eyes.” The Desire of Ages, 157, 158

Does this remind you of the scene that will take place when Jesus comes the second time? Remember that the wicked are going to be crying for the rocks and the mountains to fall on them. This is what wickedness does in the presence of purity and holiness.

“The confusion is hushed. The sound of traffic and bargaining has ceased. The silence becomes painful. A sense of awe overpowers the assembly. It is as if they were arraigned before the tribunal of God to answer for their deeds. Looking upon Christ, they behold divinity flash through the garb of humanity. The Majesty of heaven stands as the Judge will stand at the last day,—not now encircled with the glory that will then attend Him, but with the same power to read the soul. His eye sweeps over the multitude, taking in every individual. His form seems to rise above them in commanding dignity, and a divine light illuminates His countenance. He speaks, and His clear, ringing voice—the same that upon Mount Sinai proclaimed the law that priests and rulers are transgressing—is heard echoing through the arches of the temple: ‘Take these things hence; make not My Father’s house an house of merchandise.’” Ibid., 158

How do you think He said those words? Do you believe that when Jesus said, “take these things hence,” that He spoke in soft and gentle tones? I am not trying to be a comedian, but how ridiculous are some of the things that we hear people saying today. I am amazed that there are people who think that Christ was some kind of little wallflower, lacking character and authority. Because of the Ecumenical Movement, our people have become such passivists. It has become very unpopular to say anything about anybody. If you are one of those who go along with that kind of thinking, you might as well forget about the three angels’ messages. The Savior that I serve, who is our perfect example, when the occasion called for it, raised His voice and said, “Take these things hence! Make not my Father’s house a house of merchandise.”

“Slowly descending the steps, and raising the scourge of cords gathered up on entering the enclosure, He bids the bargaining company depart from the precincts of the temple. With a zeal and severity he has never before manifested, He overthrows the tables of the money changers. The coins fall, ringing sharply upon the marble pavement. None presume to question His authority. None dare stop to gather up their ill-gotten gain….Officers of the temple, speculating priests, brokers and cattle traders, with their sheep and oxen, rush from the place, with the one thought of escaping from the condemnation of His presence.

“A panic sweeps over the multitude, who feel the overshadowing of His divinity. Cries of terror escape from hundreds of blanched lips. Even the disciples tremble. They are awestruck by the words and manner of Jesus, so unlike His usual demeanor. They remember that it is written of Him, ‘The zeal of Thine house hath eaten Me up.’ Psalm 69:9. Soon the tumultuous throng with their merchandise are far removed from the temple of the Lord. The courts are free from unholy traffic, and deep silence and solemnity settles upon the scene of confusion. The presence of the Lord, that of old sanctified the mount, has now made sacred the temple reared in His honor.” Ibid., 158-161

If someone asked you if Jesus was ever severe, what would your first thought be? We do not know Jesus if we think that we have to sit on our hands and say, “Oh, I know this is terrible and something is going on in church, but I cannot say anything because I want to be Christlike.” I am sorry, but sitting there silently is not being Christlike. That is a twisted concept of Christ. A lot of people think that the tables were overthrown because as everybody was rushing out, they knocked the tables over. No, Christ was the one who overthrew the tables. This is a thought that very few people have of Christ. They cannot imagine Him doing such a thing.

Christ was not severe all of the time; but when the occasion called for it, he could be. And, yes, He kicked over those tables, the coins went flying everywhere and he said, “Take these things hence! You are not going to do this to My Father’s house.”

Was the temple sacred before Christ cleansed it? No. Before God’s presence can be in a place, it must be cleansed. We had better be very careful how we have criticized men whom God has chosen to do His work in these last days. We need to be very careful about labeling someone as being too severe or too harsh. To those who are so free to criticize and pick apart the message or the messenger, I would say, be very careful. Make sure you know what it means to be Christlike before you start saying that someone needs to be more Christlike.

“In the cleansing of the temple, Jesus was announcing His mission as the Messiah, and entering upon His work. That temple, erected for the abode of the divine presence, was designed to be an object lesson for Israel and for the world. From eternal ages it was God’s purpose that every created being, form the bright and holy seraph to man, should be a temple for the indwelling of the Creator. Because of sin, humanity ceased to be a temple for God. Darkened and defiled by evil, the heart of man no longer revealed the glory of the divine One. But by the incarnation of the Son of God, the purpose of Heaven is fulfilled. God dwells in humanity, and through saving grace the heart of man becomes again His temple.” Ibid., 161

Where does God dwell? In humanity. Therefore, if God is going to work in these last days, how is He going to work? Through humanity.

Do you see any parallels with what is taking place today? The people of Christ’s day had a misconception of the structure. They thought that their church was the structure. It was a magnificent structure and had been founded by God, but it had become their religion. They finally lost their souls because they attached their religion to their structure and refused to believe that it could never be removed.

“In cleansing the temple for the world’s buyers and sellers, Jesus announced His mission to cleanse the heart from the defilement of sin,—from the earthly desires, the selfish lusts, the evil habits, that corrupt the soul. ‘The Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to His temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, He shall come, saith the Lord of hosts. But who may abide the day of His coming? And who shall stand when He appeareth? For He is like a refiner’s fire, and like fuller’s soap; and He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and He shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver.’ Malachi 3:1-3.” Ibid.

Who are the sons of Levi? The priests. Why would God specifically say He was going to purify the sons of Levi? Because the spirituality of the church rarely rises any higher than that of the pastor. When you purify the sons of Levi, you purify the pastorate; and then the church gets purified. When you have a holy leadership, you have a holy church; and when you have an ungodly, apostate leadership, you have an unholy and apostate church. This is why it was that every time Israel had a righteous king, Israel was righteous, and every time they had a wicked king, they went deeper into apostasy. As the leadership goes, so the church goes.

“‘No man can of himself cast out the evil throng that have taken possession of the heart. Only Christ can cleanse the soul temple. But He will not force an entrance. He comes not into the heart as to the temple of old; but He says, ‘Behold, I stand at the door, and knock; if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him.’ Revelation 3:20. He will come, not for one day merely; for He says, ‘I will dwell in them, and walk in them;…and they shall be My people.’ ‘He will subdue our iniquities; and Thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.’ 2 Corinthians 6:16; Micah 7:19. His presence will cleanse and sanctify the soul, so that it may be a holy temple unto the Lord, and ‘an habitation of God through the Spirit.’ Ephesians 2:21, 22.” Ibid., 161, 162

Paul says, “Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit.” 2 Corinthians 7:1. I know this sounds like heresy, but who does it say is to do the cleansing? “Let us cleanse ourselves.” Now what does that mean? How can we cleanse ourselves? By doing our part.

I had one fellow come up to me and say, “Pastor John, I canceled my newspaper. I had to do it.”

I said, “Well, praise the Lord. If you feel like you need to cancel your newspaper, then you had better do it; I am still receiving mine. You do not look down on me because I still get the newspaper, do you?”

“’No,” he said, “but I had to cancel mine.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Because I a am sports addict; sports was my god. I did not care about anything else. I had to get to the sports section and see who won last night.”

I do not care what it is in your life; if you cannot control it, get rid of it. Do whatever you have to do, but remove the thing that is causing you to defile the body temple.

Someone says, “Oh, no, let’s not be too drastic.” Yes, let’s be drastic. Our problem is that we are not willing to do drastic things for the Lord. We are right down to the end, and we are dealing with eternity here. God’s people have been fooling around for too long and we do not have time to do so any longer. The door of probation is closing and we have to get serious about going home.

You do not kneel down and pray, “Lord help me to sleep; I cannot sleep at night,” and then leave the light on. You must first get up and turn the light off, open the window, get into bed, put your face to the wall and do whatever else you need to do to get into a situation that is conducive to sleep. You do you part.

“At the beginning of His ministry, Christ had driven from the temple those who defiled it by their unholy traffic; and His stern and Godlike demeanor had struck terror to the hearts of the scheming traders. At the close of His mission he came again to the temple, and found it still desecrated as before.” Ibid., 589

Do you think that if God returned to His temple today, he would find it desecrated just as He did in 1900 when they were about to publish John Harvey Kellogg’s book on pantheism, The Living Temple? At that time, God burned the place down and destroyed the plates.

“Again the piercing look of Jesus swept over the desecrated court of the temple. All eyes were turned toward Him. Priest and ruler, Pharisee and Gentile, looked with astonishment and awe upon Him who stood before them with the majesty of heaven’s King. Divinity flashed through humanity, investing Christ with a dignity and glory He had never manifested before. Those standing nearest Him drew as far away as the crowd would permit. Except for a few of His disciples, the Saviour stood alone.” Ibid, 590, 591

How did the Saviour stand? Alone. You see, committees do not do this type of thing. There may be wisdom in a multitude of counselors, but I believe that we have so many committees that it is a stench in the nostrils of God. When you have a committee, nobody takes the blame for anything. It was a committee that wrote Questions on Doctrine, and it was a committee who put Issues together. Christ was willing to stand alone!

“The deep silence seemed unbearable. Christ spoke with a power that swayed the people like a mighty tempest: ‘It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.’ His voice sounded like a trumpet through the temple. The displeasure of His countenance seemed like a consuming fire. With authority He commanded, ‘Take these things hence.’ John 2:16

“Three years before, the rulers of the temple had been ashamed of their flight before the command of Jesus. They had since wondered at their own fears, and their unquestioning obedience to a single humble man. They had felt that it was impossible for their undignified surrender to be repeated. Yet they were now more terrified than before, and in greater haste to obey His command. There were none who dared question his authority. Priests and traders fled from His presence, driving their cattle before them.

“On the way from the temple they were met by a throng who came with their sick inquiring for the great Healer. The report given by the fleeing people caused some of these to turn back. They feared to meet One so powerful, whose very look had driven the priests and rulers from His presence.” Ibid., 591, 592

Why would these same people who threw down their coats in front of Jesus as he rode into Jerusalem, shouting “hosanna to the Son of David,” these same people who saw the religious leaders scorned and embarrassed, running for their lives, just a few days later cry, “Crucify Him, crucify Him! We have no king but Caesar”? How could they do this? It was because their leaders had control of their minds.

When leadership has control of the minds of the laity, they can even lead them to crucify the Son of God. This is why Jesus said, “They would not change their minds even if someone rose from the dead” (Luke 16:31). They had been so hypnotized by their religious leaders that even if somebody rose from the dead, their minds would remain unchanged. Any historic Adventist can identify with that situation. When you try to explain things to fellow church members, they are unable to understand what you are saying, the they just come right back with the same round of arguments; “The church may appear as about to fall…The church is the ship going through.” Even if you talk to them for hours, it does not change anything; their minds are locked. Apostate religious leaders have brought their minds to the place where white appears as black and black as white.

There was yet another work for Christ to accomplish. He returned to the temple again. “With hand uplifted to heaven, and a divine light enshrouding his person, Christ spoke as a judge to those before Him. His voice, that had so often been heard in gentleness and entreaty, was now heard in rebuke and condemnation.” Ibid., 619

Have you ever heard it said that Christ never condemned. Don’t you ever believe that. When it was time to rebuke, Christ rebuked. When it was time to condemn, Christ condemned. Be very careful about ever telling a man chosen of God to preach the three angels’ messages, that he had better be more Christlike. If he was more Christlike, you might no be able to handle it.

“Christ’s indignation was directed against the hypocrisy, the gross sins, by which men were destroying their own souls, deceiving the people, and dishonoring God. In the specious, deceptive reasoning of the priests and rulers, he discerned the working of Satanic agencies.” Ibid.

Where did Christ see the satanic agencies? In the people? In the leadership! Christ did not rebuke the people—the laity—like this. He rebuked apostate leadership who were being directed by satanic agencies.

“He had a holy wrath against the prince of darkness; but he manifested no irritated temper. So the Christian who lives in harmony with God, possessing the sweet attributes of love and mercy, will feel a righteous indignation against sin; but he will not be roused by passion to revile those who revile him. Even in meeting those who are moved by a power from beneath to maintain falsehood, in Christ he will still preserve calmness and self-possession.

“Divine pity marked the countenance of the Son of God as He cast one lingering look upon the temple and then upon His hearers. In a voice choked by deep anguish of heart and bitter tears he exclaimed, ‘O Jerusalem, Jerusalem thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!’ This is the separation struggle. In the lamentation of Christ the very heart of God is pouring itself forth. It is the mysterious farewell of the longsuffering love of the Diety.

“Pharisees and Sadducees were alike silenced. Jesus summoned His disciples, and prepared to leave the temple, not as one defeated and forced from the presence of his adversaries, but as one whose work was accomplished. He retired a victor from the contest.” Ibid., 619, 620

“Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, ye shall not see Me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord.” Matthew 23:38, 39

Before we are tempted to so glibly say, “Well, we think you ought to be Christlike,” we need to study how, when idolatry was being brought into the church, Christ dealt with apostasy in His Father’s house. May God help us each one to have the wisdom and courage to be truly Christlike in all things.

The End