The Living Temple—The Church
Not only was the temple in Jerusalem representative of the temple of our hearts and minds, but it also represented the church. “The church of Christ is spoken of as a holy temple. Says the apostle, ‘Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God, and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner-stone; in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord in whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.’ [Ephesians 2:19–22.]” Review and Herald, June 5, 1888. (See also 1 Corinthians 3:9–17; Hebrews 3:6; 1 Peter 2:1–10; Isaiah 28:16; Zechariah 6:12, 15.)
God had a plan for the earthly temple in Jerusalem, and He has a plan for the spiritual temple as well. Christ is represented as the chief Cornerstone, and “All the followers of Christ are represented as stones in the temple of God. Every stone, large or small, must be a living stone, emitting light and fitting into the place assigned it in the building of God. How thankful we should be that a way has been opened whereby we may each have a place in the spiritual temple!” Ibid.
“His church is to be a temple built after the divine similitude, and the angelic architect has brought his golden measuring rod from heaven, that every stone may be hewed and squared by the divine measurement and polished to shine as an emblem of heaven, radiating in all directions the bright, clear beams of the Sun of Righteousness.” Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 17.
“We want the cleaver of truth to do its work for us. We are taken from the quarry of the world. The material must not be a dead substance but living souls, and these souls must be brought out of the quarry of the world, where the hand of God can fit them for the temple in heaven. We are here as probationers, and we must pass under the hand of God. All rough edges and rough surfaces must be removed and we must be stones fitted for the building. We are brought into church capacity with defects of character, but we must not retain them. We must be fitted and squared for the building. We must be ‘laborers together with God,’ for we are ‘God’s husbandry,’ we are ‘God’s building.’ In view of this we must see that our temple is not defiled with sin. We should be lively stones, not dead ones, but live ones that will reflect the image of Christ. We must be worshipers in spirit and in truth.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 3, 231, 232.
We are each one a temple, a lively stone. All these lively stones together make up the spiritual temple, or the church. How does this temple fit together, or how is the church to work together? “The word of God represents the power of the Christian church to be an individual dependence upon Christ and unity between the members. The union between the members of the church and the leader is illustrated by a temple and its foundation. The whole weight of the temple rests upon the foundation, without which it could not stand. So the members of the church of Christ are to build upon Him; for He is the only true foundation.—Letter 20, 1896, p. 4, 5. (To Brethren Colcord, Daniells, and Faulkhead, August 25, 1896.)” Ibid., vol. 5, 374.
Christ the Center
The problem with the earthly temple and its services at the time of Christ was that He was no longer made the center of all its ceremonies and services. After the temple had been twice cleansed and twice again defied, after the divine presence had been rejected and refused, the temple was destroyed. Though at one time a place of habitation for the Most High, it was, after the rejection of Christ, no more than a building. Remember, it was the presence of Christ that made the temple sacred. (See The Desire of Ages, 161.) It was not the forms of ceremonies and services in themselves that were of merit and benefit; it was what they represented that was so important.
Jesus sought earnestly to teach this lesson to the Jews before it was forever too late. “Christ’s prediction regarding the destruction of the temple was a lesson on the purification of religion, by making of none effect forms and ceremonies. He announced Himself greater than the temple, and stood forth proclaiming, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life.’ He was the one in whom all the Jewish ceremony and typical service was to find its fulfillment. He stood forth in the place of the temple; all the offices of the church centered in Himself alone.” Fundamentals of Christian Education, 399.
Human Authority in the Temple
If there is a conflict between the human keepers of the temple and Christ, who is the Christian to obey? There was a conflict in Christ’s day. The keepers of the temple laid many human restrictions and rules on the people. The authorities at the temple would not have wanted the people to read any literature, watch any videos or go to any meetings which were not approved by “properly constituted church authority.” But Christ set His followers free (see Matthew 12:1–8) from these rules and restrictions. It was not Christ’s will that any of His followers should ever again be subject to proscribed human rules of religion.
“The disciples were to teach what Christ had taught. That which He had spoken, not only in person, but through all the prophets and teachers of the Old Testament, is here included. Human teaching is shut out. There is no place for tradition, for man’s theories and conclusions, or for church legislation. No laws ordained by ecclesiastical authority are included in the commission. None of these are Christ’s servants to teach.” The Desire of Ages, 826.
Jesus came to set the captives free. In the church, during the time of the apostles, there was a constant effort to again bring men and women under the control of human religious rules and regulations. The apostle Paul was set for the defense of the gospel. (See Galatians 5 and Colossians 2.)
The exaltation of human authority until divine authority becomes secondary has been the curse of the professed church in all ages. The great apostasy (2 Thessalonians 2) was largely the result of exalting human authority until church legislation was considered more important, authoritative and dependable than the word of God.
This hypothesis is even substantiated by the Catholics themselves. The Archbishop of Reggio, at the Council of Trent, stated: “‘The Protestants claim to stand upon the written word only. They profess to hold the Scripture alone as the standard of faith. They justify their revolt by the plea that the Church has apostatized from the written word and follows tradition. Now the Protestants’ claim, that they stand upon the written word only, is not true. Their profession of holding the Scripture alone as the standard of faith, is false. PROOF: The written word explicitly enjoins the observance of the seventh day as the Sabbath. They do not observe the seventh day, but reject it. If they do truly hold the Scripture alone as their standard, they would be observing the seventh day as is enjoined in the Scripture throughout. Yet they not only reject the observance of the Sabbath enjoined in the written word, but they have adopted and do practise the observance of Sunday, for which they have only the tradition of the Church. Consequently the claim of “Scripture alone as the standard,” fails; and the doctrine of “Scripture and tradition” as essential, is fully established, the Protestants themselves being judges.’” Editor’s Note, Rome’s Challenge, TEACH Services, Inc., Brushton, NY, 1995, 23.
There is every danger that Protestants, including Seventh-day Adventists, will in practice do the same thing as described above. While verbally denying it, they will be making church creeds, church manuals and policies until these are followed in place of the word of God. It was this very fear that caused our church leaders in 1883 to reject the idea of having a church manual. The very fact that we have a church manual today would, no doubt, be looked upon by our pioneers (who got along without one for nearly 100 years) as a mark of apostasy.
When the devil has been unsuccessful in getting the professed people of God to exalt church authority above the divine authority of God’s word, he has attempted to achieve the same result by a variant of the same false teaching. Men, who saw that the exaltation of church authority resulted in terrible abuses, went to the opposite extreme of saying that they would not counsel with their brethren at all, because they were taught directly by the Holy Spirit. This happened in the days of Luther. “Counterfeit holiness, spurious sanctification, is still doing its work of deception. Under various forms it exhibits the same spirit as in the days of Luther, diverting minds from the Scriptures and leading men to follow their own feelings and impressions rather than to yield obedience to the law of God. This is one of Satan’s most successful devices to cast reproach upon purity and truth.” The Great Controversy, 193.
They would accept no man’s say-so. Thus they were subject to no authority but their own minds. This reaction to the abuse of church authority has led to much fanaticism among Christians and has also led to the development of atheistic socialism.
God’s professed people today are still subject to these snares. The one extreme is the exaltation of human authority—an attempt to enforce the will of the clergy or church leaders upon all by means of what is commonly called “properly constituted church authority.”
From whom are we to obtain counsel? Only from those who give evidence of being led by the Holy Spirit. “God is dishonored and the gospel is betrayed when His servants depend on the counsel of men who are not under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.” The Desire of Ages, 354.
“The greater the responsibilities placed upon the human agent, and the larger his opportunities to dictate and control, the more harm he is sure to do if he does not carefully follow the way of the Lord and labor in harmony with the decisions arrived at by the general body of believers in united council. . . .
“In his ministry, Paul was often compelled to stand alone. He was specially taught of God and dared make no concessions that would involve principle. At times the burden was heavy, but Paul stood firm for the right. He realized that the church must never be brought under the control of human power. The traditions and maxims of men must not take the place of revealed truth. The advance of the gospel message must not be hindered by the prejudices and preferences of men, whatever might be their position in the church.” The Acts of the Apostles, 199, 200.
In Jesus’ day, what was thought to be properly constituted church authority was made null and void by the teaching and practice of Jesus. (See Matthew 15:14; 16:10–23; Selected Messages, Book 1, 406.)
A Cleansing Again
Christ has promised to again cleanse the temple. We have learned that Christ does not cleanse the heart as He cleansed the earthly temple, but what about the spiritual temple, His church? “He will purify His church even as He purified the temple at the beginning and close of His ministry on earth” Last Day Events, 153.
There are some interesting things to note in the first cleansing of the earthly temple. First of all, when Christ came into the temple with His divine presence, who was it that fled? It was the priests, rulers, money-changers, and the crowd that fled. Christ had read the deceitfulness of their hearts. “They felt as if before the throne of the eternal Judge, with their sentence passed on them for time and for eternity.” The Desire of Ages, 162. They could not endure His presence, the divine, spotless Son of God. How sad it was. Jesus loved them. He longed to save them. “For a time they were convinced that Christ was a prophet; and many believed Him to be the Messiah. The Holy Spirit flashed into their minds the utterances of the prophets concerning Christ. Would they yield to this conviction? Repent they would not. . . . Because Christ discerned their thoughts they hated Him. . . . They determined to challenge Him as to the power by which He had driven them forth, and who gave Him this power.” Ibid.
Yes, the priest and rulers fled. But they were not alone. The majority of the people went with them. Ellen White refers to them as “the crowd.” (See Ibid., 163.) When contrasted to the priests, she says, “The people were comparatively innocent.” Ibid., 164. “The sin of the desecration of the temple rested, in a great degree, upon the priests. It was by their arrangement that the court had been turned into a market place.” Ibid., 163, 164. But, please notice what it was that led the people to reject the Saviour. “With them the influence of the priests and rulers was paramount.” Ibid., 164.
Oh, friends, when will we ever learn not to put men in the place of God, whomever they may be or whatever position they might hold. The majority of the people in Jerusalem lost their salvation because they made flesh their arm. “They regarded Christ’s mission as an innovation, and questioned His right to interfere with what was permitted by the authorities of the temple. They were offended because the traffic had been interrupted, and they stifled the convictions of the Holy Spirit.” Ibid.
Both the priests and the people rejected the pleadings of the Holy Spirit. Would there be any that would accept the working of the Holy Spirit upon the heart? “When they fled, the poor remained behind; and these were now looking to Jesus, whose countenance expressed His love and sympathy. With tears in His eyes, He said to the trembling ones around Him: Fear not; I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify Me. For this cause came I into the world.” Ibid., 163.
It was a wonderful time for the poor. They had found a Friend in Jesus. They told Him all their sorrows and woes. They brought to Him their sick to be healed and their children to be blessed. “Hope and gladness filled their hearts. Peace came to their minds. They were restored soul and body, and they returned home, proclaiming everywhere the matchless love of Jesus.” Ibid.
Like Nicodemus (see John 3; The Desire of Ages, 176), the seeds of truth had been hidden in their hearts, and at the crucifixion they did not join with the maddened throng. After Jesus’ death, “They listened to the preaching of the apostles, and . . . became agents of God’s mercy, and instruments of His salvation.” Ibid.
The poor had accepted the working of the Holy Spirit upon their hearts, and if we are to accept the working of the Holy Spirit upon our hearts, we too must become poor—poor in spirit. Jesus said, “Blessed [are] the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:3.
The Cleansing of the Review
It is an interesting fact that those who professed to be the people of God fled from His presence when He cleansed the earthly temple. Friends, we have just read that He is going to cleanse the spiritual temple (the church) as, or in the same way, He cleansed the earthly. How will it be today? The cleansing is going to happen, friends.
Of the fire at the Review office in Battle Creek, Michigan, Ellen White wrote, “Three nights before the Review office burned, I was in an agony that words cannot describe. I could not sleep. I walked the room, praying to God to have mercy upon His people. Then I seemed to be in the Review office with the men who have the management of the institution. I was trying to speak to them and thus to help them. One of authority arose and said, ‘You say, The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord are we; therefore, we have authority to do this thing and that thing and the other thing. But the word of God forbids many of the things that you propose to do.’ At His first advent, Christ cleansed the Temple. Prior to His second advent He will again cleanse the temple. He was there cleansing the temple. Why? Because commercial work had been brought in, and God had been forgotten. With hurry here and hurry there and hurry somewhere else, there was no time to think of heaven. The principles of God’s law were presented, and I heard the question asked, ‘How much of the law have you obeyed?’ Then the word was spoken, ‘God will cleanse and purify His temple in His displeasure.’” The Publishing Ministry, 170, 171.
The cleansing of the Review office involved judgments from God. If God cleansed the Review by fire because of what was happening, then what are we to expect today? Inspiration tells us, “Brethren, God is in earnest with us. I want to tell you that if after the warnings given in these burnings the leaders of our people go right on, just as they have done in the past, exalting themselves, God will take the bodies next. Just as surely as He lives, He will speak to them in language that they cannot fail to understand.” Ibid., 171.
He Will Thoroughly Purge His Floor
“Just how soon this refining process will begin I [Ellen White] cannot say, but it will not be long deferred. He whose fan is in His hand will cleanse His temple of its moral defilement. He will thoroughly purge His floor.” Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 373.
Oh, friends, when Jesus comes to cleanse the temple, what will He find? Jesus cleansed the earthly temple two times before it was eventually destroyed, because it had been a means of blinding men’s eyes and of hardening their hearts. He cleansed the institutions at Battle Creek by fire more than once. Do we realize what is coming, friends?
It is Jesus’ plan to cleanse sin from the temple of our hearts and from our church. If we will not let go of sin, we must be destroyed with it. May God help us make the needful preparation, so when the cleansing comes, we will not be destroyed.