The temple was given for a twofold purpose.
One purpose is a habitation of God’s residence. Moses said, “I will prepare him an habitation” (Exodus 15:2). God had instructed Moses: “I want you to make Me a sanctuary, ‘according to all that I shew thee, after the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the instruments thereof, even so shall ye make it’ ” (Exodus 25:9). Hebrews, Chapter 9, repeats that God spoke to Moses on how to build the temple. Moses was given by God, a pattern on how to build the tabernacle, or temple during the 40-days-and-40-nights period. God had said He would dwell in the temple. In all seven temples in the Word, God dwelt in that temple, in the holy of holies. He dwelt there in His manifest conscious presence (in His shekinah glory).
A second purpose of the temple is to serve as a facility in which worship is offered unto God.
The first temple was merely a tabernacle. A tabernacle serves the same purpose as a temple, but is a tent rather than a building. God spoke to Moses, “Let them [meaning Israel] make me [God] a sanctuary,” indicating a PLACE of residence, a refuge, a hallowed, holy place where God would dwell.
Let’s take an abridged look at the seven temples.
1A. The tabernacle or temple of Moses
The first temple, or tabernacle, was the tabernacle of Moses. It was erected and carried across the wilderness for forty years into Canaan land, and was finally pitched on Mount Gibeon. It stayed there for hundreds of years.
The structure: a mobile tent.
The specific truth portrayed: the law of God.
While receiving instruction to build the tabernacle, Moses basked in the presence of God on Mount Sinai. When he came down from that mount, the children of Israel asked that they might not see his face because of the glory that was upon him. They turned from THE LAW THAT HAD GLORY. In fact, it was a fading glory, and that is why Moses would often go into the tent in order that the glory would again come upon him.
Moses himself said, “I exceedingly fear and quake” at the revelation of God’s law (Hebrews 12:21). It wasn’t a joyful, jubilant time, it was a very solemn, sober assembly at the institution of the tabernacle of Moses. There were no musical instruments, no joyful shouts of praise offered to God, and all who went to the tabernacle in the wilderness approached it in holy fear, and even dread.
The institution of this temple brought forth the law, which symbolizes the righteousness of God. His almighty omniscient holiness, and no one could approach Him unless he met His requirements, found in the law. This is why the high priest would approach Him in fear of death. He literally trembled as he entered into the holy of holies, for he knew he had to fulfill the exact procedures or he would die.
This first tabernacle was a beginning place of worship, and sacrifices of blood offerings were offered to God. It was a solemn type of worship, and apparently not much joy or jubilation was present. Note the progression in the second tabernacle.
2A. The tabernacle of David
Four hundred years after the institution of Moses’ tabernacle, the Lord put it into David’s heart to move the ark of God from Gibeon to the city of David, “And they set the ark of God” (2 Samuel 6:1-10), the second tabernacle. The only thing that David took out of the tabernacle of Moses was the ark of God (2 Chronicles 1:4), and put it upon a new cart and brought it from Kirjath-jearim. Uzzah stretched forth his hand to steady the ark, and God smote him and he died. This displeased David very greatly, and he left the ark of God at the house of Obed-edom. He didn’t want any more Israelites dying, so he left the ark with the Gittite. For three months the Lord blessed the house of Obed-edom (see 2 Samuel 6:1-12).
David heard that the ark of the Lord was causing great blessing, and he went to the house of Obed-edom and got the ark of the covenant. This time when he brings it he has had a change of heart. He no longer approached it with fear and dread, even though Uzziah had been killed. Now he approached the ark of the covenant with great jubilation, and as he carried that ark he did something which was not lawful. A king, or prophet, or an Israelite could not do the work of the priest (Numbers 3:38). If anyone other than an anointed priest tried to do the work of the priest he would be put to death. An example of this is shown in 2 Chronicles 26:19 when King Uzziah went into the temple and offered incense. When he did this he was smitten with leprosy, and later died.
David was now acting on revelation, and stripped his kingly garments, donning the priestly ephod. Some mistakenly say that David was naked. However, he was clothed with the priestly ephod as so was covered, but he was striped in the sense that his kingly garments were laid aside. Here was a king that looked like a priest! If he had not had a revelation of grace he would have been struck dead. Notice in the account 2 Samuel, Chapter 6, that they would go six paces then offer sacrifices. David danced before the Lord with all his might; girded with a linen ephod. “With shouting and with the sound of the trumpet” (vs. 14-15) he brought the ark of the Lord into the city of David.
Observe the establishment of David’s tabernacle: “And they brought in the ark of the Lord, and set it in his place, in the midst of the tabernacle that David had pitched for it” (2 Samuel 6:17). Tabernacle here means tent. David didn’t even have an outer court, or a holy place. He merely had a little tent to serve as the holy of holies. He didn’t have all the furniture that was supposed to be in the original temple that God showed Moses. All David had was the ark of the covenant which he placed in the tent that he pitched on Mount Zion. There was no veil separating the ark from the people. The ark represented the presence of God. In the first tabernacle God dwelt between the two cherubim that were over and above the ark, right above the mercy seat sitting atop the ark. Here the people worshipped God.
At the coronation of this second temple there was praise, worship, dancing, clapping, lifting of holy hands and musical instruments. It was a very joyous occasion. David offered burnt offerings and peace offerings to the Lord and blessed the people in the name of the Lord of hosts (v. 18). David gave everyone wine, meat and bread. Meat and bread symbolize the WORD-Jesus; and the flagon of wine-the joy of the Holy Ghost. It was a very happy occasion, even though Michal, Saul’s daughter and David’s wife, despised David in her heart for his actions.
The specific truth portrayed: The tabernacle of David was a revelation of GRACE.
There was no way that God’s people could worship Him acceptably - after all, they had transgressed His commandment, broken His law, and it was impossible for man to keep the law. Yet, here they were, worshipping God as though they were righteous. They were seeing the work of GRACE. David was chosen to show forth that grace, which was foreshadowing of grace of the New Testament, because from him would come he seed who would actually bring it into being. “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). The king’s revelation of GRACE so pleased God that He said centuries later that He would raise again the tabernacle of David. David was seeing something that God was going to do centuries ahead. When God talked about raising the tabernacle He didn’t say He would raise again the tabernacle of Moses, but “in that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof” (Amos 9:11). When the New Testament church was deciding what to do with the Gentiles who were coming to the Lord, James quoted Amos 9:11-12 as prophetic of their salvation (Acts 15:16-17).
The structure: The tabernacle of David was a stationary tent. It was pitched on Mount Zion. The tabernacle of David was a revelation of grace. God favored Zion. “The Lord loveth the gates of Zion” (Ps. 87:2). “When the Lord shall build up Zion” (Ps. 102:16). (See Micah 3:10)
David was greatly blessed in the revelation of this tabernacle. Years later, in his natural mind he evidently felt the need to build a more fitting dwelling place for God. He came to the prophet Nathan saying, “See now, I dwell in an house of cedar, but the ark of God dwelleth within curtains” (2 Samuel 7:2). David wished to erect to God a timbered building.
Nathan said, “Go, do all that is in thine heart, for the Lord is with thee.” But later it was revealed that David had been too bloody in his life (1 Chronicles 28:3). However, David spent many years making plans for the building of the temple. God didn’t allow a man of war to build His temple. He raised up a man of peace. The name SOLOMON means “peaceable”.
3A. The temple of Solomon
The third temple is called the “house of the Lord” in 2 Chronicles 7:11.
So much was involved in Solomon’s temple: cornets, psalteries, harps, and 4,000 were appointed to be singers. There were recorders also, people who wrote down anything that was prophetic. (Where there is praise there is prophecy! It was a very noisy place. In that day you couldn’t have enjoyed Zion if you were a present-day typical religious person.)
The picture of the temple is given in 2 Chronicles 5:13-14: “It came even to pass, as the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make ONE sound to be heard in praising and thanking the Lord;” [It is very important to be AS ONE to make one sound. On the day of Pentecost they were in one accord, in one place. “For where two or three are gathered together in my name there am I in their midst” (Matthew 18:20). “Gathered” means brought into oneness. It is not enough to just get a group of people in a building and place Jesus’ name over it and claim that Jesus is in the midst. You have to be gathered into oneness, into unity. They were making one sound to be heard praising in the temple of the Lord, saying, For he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever: that then the house was filled with a cloud, even the house of the Lord; so that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud: for the glory of the Lord had filled the house of God.”
You see, Solomon is ADDING to the tabernacle of David. They still have praise, they still l have worship, they have instruments of music, and the grace of God, but now they have added GLORY. There was no cloud of GLORY in David’s tabernacle. But in Solomon’s temple there was a CLOUD of GLORY and it filled the house to where the priests could not even stand to minister. They were flat on their backs looking at the cloud of glory. They were all lying under the power of God.
The sixth chapter of 2 Chronicles is a prayer by Solomon. In the seventh chapter is portrayed the special truth: GLORY. “Now when Solomon had made an end of praying, the fire came down from heaven, and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and the GLORY OF THE LORD FILLED THE HOUSE. And the priests could not enter into the house of the Lord, because the glory of the Lord had filled the Lord’s house. And when all the children of Israel saw how the fire came down, and the glory of the Lord upon the house, they bowed themselves with their faces to the ground upon the pavement, and worshipped, and praised the Lord, saying, For he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever” (v. 1-3). Three times the word GLORY is mentioned. There was GLORY at Solomon’s temple.
The structure: the temple was a magnificent building.
This is the third temple mentioned in the Word of God, yet the first that is spoken of as a building. When people think about the temple, what do they think of? A large, ornate building! This is the only one of the entire seven temples mentioned in the Word of God that was listed as a MAGNIFICENT BUILDING! When this temple was later destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, and rebuilt by Zerubbabel (Zechariah 4:6-9; Haggai 1-2), that wasn’t a new revelation of God, or a new institution of a temple, but just a continuation of the old temple. Again, the temple was later rebuilt by Herod over a period of forty-six years. When Jesus was living on the earth, the temple of Solomon had been rebuilt twice, but it was still the same temple, the same place. The building had aged, had been attacked by armies, and had been rebuilt. It was a continuation of the same revelation.
Solomon’s temple was seven years in being erected. Millions of dollars’ worth of gold, silver and precious stones and artifacts went into the building of this temple. It was indeed a magnificent building. Solomon doubled the dimensions used in the tabernacle of Moses. It as BOTH glorious in the natural and glorious in the spiritual. It was tremendously glorious in the beginning. Later Israel felt they could associate worship with the temple and began to rebel against God and go into idolatry and commit adultery.
During the time of the prophet Hosea the whole nation was like an oven that was heated, they were so hot with adultery, wife swapping, even importing prostitutes. Hosea gives us the picture of a nation caught up with adultery. But do you know what they were saying at that time? “We have the temple.”
That is the problem with a brick-and-stone building, it is associated as being the house of the Lord. We have to have meeting places, but so often we spend so much time putting up brick and stone edifices. Even Spirit-filled ministers in Full Gospel churches say, “We have to build the house of the Lord. We want beautiful carpets, stained-glass windows, only the finest things for the house of the Lord.” Those material things do not make it the house of the Lord. It is merely a meeting place. It ought to be nice enough to accommodate the people, but, at the same time, we often do the very thing Israel did by thinking we can associate worship and our relationship with God with a literal building. This is seemingly what denominations are mostly about. Solomon’s temple degenerated to this concept, so God had to raise up more temples.
Temple number four adds a new dimension to our concept of the structure of the temples of God.
Continued next week...