THE INNER SANCTUARY WHERE GOD IS 'MORE PRESENT'
'…In whom all the building fitly framed together grows unto an holy temple in the Lord:' (Ephesians 2:21)
Herod's Temple looked spectacular from its outward appearance. But the glory of God never dwelt in the inner sanctuary of this temple. The prophet Ezekiel had seen the glory of God depart from Solomon's Temple at the time when the Jews were taken into Babylonian captivity (Ezekiel 9-11). This was almost six hundred years before Jesus was born. Even though the Second Temple was rebuilt seventy years later, the glory never came back to dwell in the inner sanctuary. The Second Temple built by Zerubbabel and rebuilt by King Herod never contained the Ark of Covenant or the Shekinah glory of God. The glory of the Second Temple that the prophets spoke about was fulfilled through the coming of the Lord Jesus. 'The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, says the LORD of hosts: and in this place will I give peace, says the LORD of hosts.' (Haggai 2:9)
For most people, there was not a lot of difference between the temple with the glory of God and the temple without the glory of God. The temple was still the heart of the nation and the centre of the Jewish religion. The everyday affairs of the temple carried on exactly the same, and the people gloried in the outward appearance of the magnificent building that Herod had built. But there were some who looked for the 'glory of Israel'. One of these was an old man called Simeon. When Jesus was taken to the temple to be dedicated, Simeon took hold of the baby and said,'…a light to lighten the Gentiles and the glory of Your people Israel' (Luke 2:32).
The glory of Israel was Jesus, but most people were content with the glory of the temple building and the activities of organised Jewish religious life. It is exactly the same in the church today. Many people in the church have no desire for the presence of the Lord. They are satisfied with living as Christians and being respectable people in the community. They do not want to become fools for Christ, or to be worshipping witnesses to Christ. They may be genuinely saved, but they have no desire for worship beyond singing some songs of worship. They are missing the highest calling of God to become worshippers.
The presence of God is everywhere and in this sense the presence of God was in Herod's Temple in Jerusalem. But when Solomon dedicated the First Temple, God was 'more present' so that even the priests could not stand to minister (1 Kings 8:10-11). The prophet Isaiah was lifted even higher than this when he saw a place where God sits enthroned in the heavens; a place where the angels of God worship the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, crying 'Holy, Holy, Holy' (Isaiah 6:1-3). This place is called the temple of the living God because His glory is there. The God who is omnipresent (everywhere) in the universe is 'more present' in His temple. Wherever God is 'more present' then His nature and character is manifested, and His power is fully known. Isaiah longed for God to be 'more present' on earth when he cried: 'Oh that you would rend the heavens, that you would come down, that the mountains might flow down at thy presence,' (Isaiah 64:1)
When God is 'more present' great mountains will be removed, and even the mighty kings of the earth are made to tremble in fear (Daniel 5:5-6). The prophets who were despised longed for God to manifest His presence, but in the wisdom of God He has chosen the foolish and weak things of the world to glorify Himself. The Son of God came to earth as a servant so that He could redeem a company of people from the world. A people who would be insignificant in the eyes of the world, but a people separated for His possession. This was God's eternal plan that the glory of His presence would dwell within a temple made of living stones. A temple built of people who have been lifted from the depths of sin to the heights of holiness; a people created for worship. 'You also, as living stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.' (1 Peter 2:5).
When Jesus cleansed the temple in Jerusalem the Jews asked for a sign to show that He had been given the authority to do this. Jesus told them that the only sign He would give was; 'Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.' (John 2:19). There are two Greek words that are translated temple in the New Testament. One of these words is 'hieron' this refers to the temple building and all its precincts. The other word is 'naos' which refers to the inner sanctuary of the temple. Jesus was speaking of the inner sanctuary. It was the place associated with the presence of God and the glory of God. Only the priests could enter into the inner sanctuary. Even Jesus was not allowed to enter into this part of Herod's Temple because He was born of the tribe of Judah. The priests were all Levites. The Jews related the words of Jesus to the impressive temple that King Herod had built. When He was put on trial at the house of the High Priest his words were misquoted, 'We heard him say, I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands.' (Mark 14:58).
They were misquoting the words of Jesus because He did not say 'made with hands'. He was not referring to Herod's Temple at all. He was declaring that His body is the true inner sanctuary where God dwells. Jesus was prophesying to them that they would kill Him, but on the third day He would rise again. He associated His death and resurrection with the destruction and resurrection of the temple. The body of Christ was the real temple of God. Jesus was always aware that He had come to build the temple of the Lord, and the temple would be built through His death and resurrection.
Jesus told the Jews that His body was the inner sanctuary of God. This was the true temple where God was worshipped in spirit and in truth. No one else at that time except Jesus could be associated with the body of Christ. But after Jesus was crucified on the cross; risen from the dead; and ascended to the right hand of God, He became the Head of His body, and every person who is in Christ has become a member of His body. This is not an illustration; this is a fact because His life dwells in His body. The believer in Christ is crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20), buried with Christ (Colossians 2:12), risen with Christ (Colossians 3:1), and is seated in heavenly places in Christ (Ephesians 2:6). In becoming members of His body, we become part of the temple of God. A people created in Christ Jesus for worship. '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 in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.' (2 Corinthians 6:16)
God is a jealous God, and the temple of God is set apart for the worship of God. This is a higher calling than being 'saved from sin'. It is the call to holiness and separation. It means everything in our lives is important, because God is dwelling in His temple. The thoughts of our minds, the affections of our hearts, as well as the actions of our bodies are all acts of worship. We are called to worship in 'spirit and in truth', which means glorifying the Lord in purity of spirit from the innermost part of our being. 'What? know you not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which you have of God, and you are not your own? For you are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.' (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
When God is 'more present' in the temple of His body then His nature and character will be manifested and His power will be known. This is always the case in revivals. A revival is when the Holy Spirit takes control of the meetings bringing an awareness of the holiness of God, filling the believers with the love of God, and producing a godly fear of the awesomeness of His presence. The awareness of the holiness of God produces strong conviction of sin and repentance in the congregation, but this will eventually lead to great joyfulness. Revivals are always characterised by these two things; repentance and joy.
Singing is a wonderful way of being able to express this joy. But sometimes the Holy Spirit takes complete control of the singing. There was a strange phenomenon at the Azusa Street revival in 1906 that was called the 'heavenly chorus'. This was spontaneous singing, either solo or in unison, of a new song in the Spirit. It was sometimes sung without words, and at other times in unknown tongues. The evidence that this was the Holy Spirit was that a heavenly atmosphere came upon the congregation and it seemed to them as though they worshipped with the angels.
The body of Christ at the present time often resembles Herod's Temple. The activities of religion are vigorously pursued, but the glory of God is not present. Many are content to know that the presence of God is with us, but only a small number desire to see the Holy Spirit take control and be 'more present' in His body. The eternal plan and purpose of God is that the Lord Jesus has redeemed a people to be living stones of His temple where His glory dwells. It is in this context that every person who has received Christ as his or her Saviour is called to the higher calling to worship. We have been created in Christ Jesus to be a place of worship, and to be worshippers. God is God, we are His creation, and we worship Him, but we who are in Christ have become the dwelling place of God and will be for all eternity. Even the angels stand in awe that God has done this. What a wonder that God loved us so much that He has lifted us to such heights of worship.