Compare and discuss the three-tiered design of creation (sky, land, and sea) that God completes on the seventh day (Genesis 1:1-2:2) with the three-part design of Solomon’s temple (holy of holies, holy place, and courtyard) completed after seven years (1 Kings 6). What similarities and differences stand out to you?
How do human beings fail to trust God as they work in the cosmic garden temple (Genesis 3:1-6) and Solomon’s temple (1 Kings 9:1-9 and 11:1-13)? What happens as a result (see Genesis 3:7-24; 2 Chronicles 36:15-21)?
What do you observe as you compare the dedication of Solomon’s temple (2 Chronicles 7:1-3) with the inauguration of Jesus’ new human temples (Acts 2:1-4)?
Discuss how New Testament authors describe the Church as God’s new temple (see Ephesians 2:19-22; 1 Peter 2:4-5).
Jon: If you could go back to the city of Jerusalem during Bible times, the biggest thing you’d see is the temple.
Tim: This beautiful building was designed by King David and built by King Solomon; and they believed that it was the home of the God of the universe1.
Jon: Wait. I thought God’s home was in heaven.
Tim: Well, the whole point of this earthly temple is that it’s the place that overlaps with God’s heavenly home. The temple is where God lives and rules all creation as king2.
Jon: That’s cool. But even Solomon who built the temple didn’t believe that it could contain the God of the universe3. Right?
Tim: Yeah. The building was just a symbol, and it pointed to the fact that all of creation is God’s temple4. And that’s actually what the first page of the Bible, Genesis 1, is all about.
God Dwells in All Creation [00:49-01:55]
Jon: Really? It says that creation is God’s temple?
Tim: Well, it doesn't need to say it; the whole story shows it. In Genesis 1, God creates an ordered world out of a dark wasteland5 by speaking in a series of seven days6. Then on the seventh day, God’s presence fills creation as he takes up his rest and rule7. Similarly, the tabernacle—and later the temple—were built and dedicated in a series of seven speeches and seven days8, after which the priest or king could rest and rule in God’s presence.
Jon: Ah, so all of creation is where God intends to dwell. It’s like his temple.
Tim: Exactly. Now, turn the page to Genesis 2 and we get another portrait of creation. This one focuses in on the land. And in the center of the land is a region called Eden, which in Hebrew means “delight.”9
Jon: And in the middle of “delight” God plants a garden in which God and humanity live together10.
Tim: And that’s why the temple was modeled after the garden, filled with imagery of gold and flowers. The menorah symbolized the tree of life. It’s the place where God dwells with his people11.
Jon: Oh, got it!
Humans Fail at their Priestly Role [01:55-02:56]
Tim: And check this out. In the temple, the Israelite priests and Levites were to “to work and to keep” the temple in God’s presence12. This is exactly the job description given to humanity in the garden of Eden13.
Jon: So these humans were the first priests. But instead of ruling with God, they wanted to rule on their own terms, and they’re exiled from the garden-temple14.
Tim: And like Adam and Eve, Israel’s leaders also wanted to rule on their own terms, and they too were exiled15.
Jon: The temple was destroyed16, and this left them wondering: Did God give up on Israel? Will God bring about a new creation?
Tim: Well, the biblical prophets anticipated the day when God would create a new temple with a new priesthood. That’s when God’s presence would fill all of creation17.
Jon: And when the Israelites returned to the land, they did rebuild the temple18.
Tim: But that temple didn’t turn out the way the prophets hoped19. In fact, later Israelite prophets said that this temple was hopelessly corrupt20.
Jon: So they’re still waiting for the ultimate temple.
Jesus: True Temple, True Priest [02:57-03:30]
Tim: And here we come to the story of Jesus. He said that through him, God’s presence and rule was coming into our world in a new way21. And he presented himself as a new kind of priest22.
Jon: But Jesus wasn’t a priest, and he didn’t work in the temple.
Tim: Right. Jesus said that God’s presence—his rest and rule—was filling the world through his own life, death, and resurrection. Jesus was claiming that he was the true temple23. And this new temple would expand out to include all of creation24.
Jon: That’s a really big claim!
The Church: Mini-Temples [03:31-04:40]
Tim: And it got even bigger! After his resurrection, Jesus said that God’s presence would come to dwell in and among his followers, so that they would become mini-temples25.
Jon: Communities of people where God rests and rules26.
Tim: Exactly. This is the Bible’s vision of the Church, which is described as a temple27.
Jon: Not a building but people.
Tim: Yeah. Like when Peter says, “You all are living stones built up as a temple for God’s Spirit to dwell.”28
Jon: So at the end of the story, do we ever get a new physical temple?
Tim: Well, not exactly. What we see is a renewed cosmic temple, just like Genesis 129. And this new creation doesn’t need a temple building because through Jesus, all creation is now the place where God rests and rules the world with his people30.