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God’s Greatest Temple

The birth of Jesus Christ is the centerpiece around which all the rest of the Bible is organized. 
Read Time: 11 minutes

We all know this story. It is found in the early chapters of Matthew and Luke. It is perhaps the simplest and most straightforward story in the Bible. The story is told to small children by their parents or teachers in Sunday Schools. The birth of Jesus Christ is the centerpiece around which all the rest of the Bible is organized. 

In His infinite wisdom, the great Creator looked down upon the earth and carefully selected a young woman—well-known as a virtuous woman—to be the mother of His Son. Her child, when grown to manhood, would draw all people to himself and show them perfect love, a greater love than humanity had ever experienced, a love which required the laying down of his life, the life of the Son of God for his friends:

Greater love has no man than this: to lay down one’s life for his friends. (John 15:13).1
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16).

Everything in the Old Testament looks forward to this marvelous miracle of love. Everything in the New Testament (after the Gospels) looks backward to the same event.

However, as with other simple stories, there is a more detailed background story. An “inside story” that we may not notice until our attention is drawn to it. The story concerns the Lord God Himself, silently working behind the scenes. At the story’s center, we will see… a little baby!

So, why a baby? Or, to put it another way, why not an angel? Paul answers this question:

But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise;
God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.
God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. 
It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.
Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” (1 Cor 1:27-31).

Some men, like Nimrod (Gen 10:8-9), conquer the world (or some part of it), and build towers that they intend to reach to heaven, all to gain a reputation among men. But the one true God is not impressed at all by such accomplishments. His hands have literally made everything, including those powerful men. He only looks with favor upon those who are humble and contrite and who tremble at His Word (Isa 66:2).

In the little village of Nazareth, in Galilee, there was a young woman named Mary, a virgin, who was betrothed to Joseph. As she spent her days looking forward to their wedding and preparing for it, she was greeted one day by an angel named Gabriel. He pleasantly greeted her, referring to her as “highly favored by the Lord God.” Almost as an afterthought, he added, “Do not be afraid.” 

After Mary regained her composure, Gabriel continued:

You have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus [that is, Savior]. He will be great, and he will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end. (Luke 1:30-33).

Mary wondered aloud how this could be since she was a virgin. The angel replied that the Holy Spirit would visit her and overshadow her so that the child who would be born would be the Son of God. To this, Mary agreed, saying, “I am the Lord’s servant. May His word be fulfilled.” (Luke 1:38).

When reading Genesis 1, we might conclude that God created all the heavens, the earth, and everything and everyone on it, and then He “rested.” Period. But God did not “rest” for long. He had a plan, and He still has a plan, in which He continues to work, watching over His creation and His children and providing for their needs. God also made the people of Israel His own special kingdom.

Yes, in Genesis, God’s commanding Word had brought a new world into being. But there was more, much more, to be done. In Exodus, God’s command created a new nation in the earth, with a tabernacle in which His glory dwelt behind beautifully woven curtains.

Then, after God had finished His earlier works, He set out to create what we might call “His greatest masterpiece.” The very best of God’s creative energies were poured into this masterpiece, which was a unique human being, His only begotten Son. 

In Old Testament times, altars, tabernacles, and temples were the places where men might approach God and worship Him. But many times, those places of worship did not serve the worshippers well and thus did not fulfill God’s purpose. In fact, those temples were often corrupted by men’s self-righteousness, pride, idolatry, and greed. For example, Jesus called Herod’s Temple “a house of merchandise” (John 2:16 KJV), and so it was!

So, as we enter the New Testament times, we see that God alone, without the use of men’s hands, is creating His best and most perfect “temple,” or place of worship, in the person of His only begotten Son. Jesus would be a special “temple” where mankind could access the heavenly Father. We might say the Son of God was designed to be not only the “king,” but also the “altar,” the “priest,” the “tabernacle,” the “sacrifice,” and the “temple,” all rolled into one.

There is another significant point to be considered when we see Jesus as the temple of God. The Son of God did not sit in one place, waiting for people to come to him! Instead, he finished his forty-day sojourn in the wilderness, where he wrestled with his temptations and won. Then he went out into the world, going from fishing boat to fishing boat, from town to town, and door to door, we might say, seeking those who would listen and offering them living water, the bread of heaven, and the gift of eternal life. 

In the beginning, God had said, “Let there be light,” and there was light (Gen 1:3). Like the first creation, which was called out of darkness at God’s Word, so by the Word of God another great light rose upon the darkness of mankind. Jesus appeared to Israel as a bright light, and his teaching, his character, and his sacrifice revealed the gift of eternal life:

The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. (Matt 4:16).

At this point, we need to back up just a bit to Psalm 139, a psalm of David. In this psalm, the Holy Spirit describes a human being “intricately woven together,” even in his inner parts. Today, with the benefit of modern science, we can begin to understand a small portion of that Divine work. In recent years, scientists have opened the door to the awesome miracle of intertwined DNA molecules, which carry the genetic code for every human life. Continuing with Psalm 139, we read:

For you [God] created my inmost being [my mind and my heart]; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place [the womb]… your eyes saw my unformed body. (Psa 139:13-16).

That which is created in the microscopic parts of the human embryo is truly awe-inspiring. It is the most extraordinary of God’s miraculous works of creation. Much of God’s creation, in the far reaches of the universe, can be seen now, and we marvel at the sight.

But also, God’s greatest work is to be perceived in each individual person, in the smallest threads and chains at the molecular level. There, unseen for thousands of years, God has been weaving together the strands of human intelligence and character. 

This is the wondrous work that has formed each of us in our mother’s womb. There, little specks of material from the father and the mother come together and then begin to divide and multiply to grow into a real human being and then to grow and develop further until the child is born, ready to develop even further. Eventually, a fully grown person, with a heart and a mind, and intelligence and character, is the result.

The process is all there for us to see as our Father in heaven replenishes the number of His children, day by day. We are all His offspring (Acts 17:26-28). We are created in His image (Gen 1:27). We all belong to the same family, and we ought to love one another. 

Now, to consider Jesus himself. Like the fabrics in the tabernacle, which were created at Moses’ command, another tabernacle or temple was now produced. Jesus was God’s Word made flesh (John 1:14), “intricately woven together” by his Father.

This “Word made flesh,” that is, Jesus, was a “temple,” or “tabernacle,” which also had curtains “intricately woven together.” Yes, he was a human being like all of us, but an exceptional human in that he was uniquely stamped with “the radiance of God’s glory” and the “exact representation” of his Father’s person (Heb 1:3).

How did this come about? It began with the conception of Jesus in his mother’s womb, where the Son of God was conceived and nurtured and finally born. As he grew and progressed through his young life, he was taught by his Father, but we do not know how. He embarked upon an extraordinary mission when he grew to be a man.

This work culminated in the cross, in the garden tomb, and in Christ’s resurrection to eternal life. So God’s Word became, in human flesh and form, an eternal temple in which God’s glory would dwell among men and would remain with them. This process was expressed in the Gospel of Matthew:

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God is with us”). (Matt 1:22, 23).

As “Immanuel” (Isa 7:14), the child and then the man Jesus would become a “sanctuary” (Isa 8:14), a temple or holy place where God might dwell and where men and women might through Jesus approach God.

As mentioned earlier, God commanded that His people of Israel would have a tabernacle in which His glory would dwell. Then God’s divine power oversaw the inspired weaving of the fabrics of that special house, the tabernacle, at the hands of His craftsmen Bezalel and Oholiab (Exod 35-38). 

In the Old Testament, especially in the last part of Exodus, the words for “knit” or “weave” were used in:

  • the pattern on the veil of the Tabernacle: “the work of an embroider,” and “made with needlework.” (Exod 26-38);
  • the embroidery of the hangings at the tabernacle’s entrance or gate (Exod 27 and 36);
  • the coat (tunic: KJV), turban, (miter), and sash (girdle) of the High Priest (Exod 28 and 39), and, most notably,
  • the curtain, or veil, at the Most Holy Place (Exod 26).

So the Spirit of God knitted together the fabric, inward and outward, of the embryo in Mary’s womb, for this “fabric” would belong especially to the only begotten Son of God (again, Psa 139). 

At the very moment when Christ died on the cross, as the once-and-for-all sacrifice for us, this veil or curtain in the Most Holy Place (which represented Christ’s body) was torn from top to bottom (Matt 27:51; Mark 15:38), revealing God’s mercy-seat. The Apostle Paul explained the significance of this miracle: 

Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. (Heb 10:19-22).

Our Lord Jesus Christ, from his conception until his last mortal breath upon the cross, was fabricated in human form. He became a walking, talking, loving, caring, approachable human being such as the world had never seen before. After his death and resurrection, Jesus became an immortal “temple,” or “tabernacle,” always available to us who believe in him. 

Now we see that the veil of the Most Holy Place in the temple, which held the mercy seat, symbolized that unique human being, Jesus, the Son of God. So it should be no surprise when we learn, from the New Testament, that:

Jesus refers to himself as “one greater than the temple.” (Matt 12:5 KJV).

Jesus said to his disciples that not one stone of Herod’s great temple would be left upon another and that every one would be thrown down (Matt 24:1, 2; Mark 13:1-37; Luke 21:5, 6). Thereby, Jesus declared Herod’s great building to be evil and corrupt and in need of complete destruction. This is why Jesus drove the moneychangers out of Herod’s temple, calling that temple a den of thieves (Mark 11:17).

When Jesus was asked for a sign that he had authority from God, he predicted his own death (“Destroy this temple). Then he also predicted his subsequent resurrection (“I will raise it—this temple—again in three days”). (John 2:19, 20; Matt 26:61; Mark 14:58). In both statements, he was referring to himself as the true “temple” of God (John 2:21, 22).

Christ said, “Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem… and I will write on him my new name.” (Rev 3:12). We also notice that, at the same time, Christ said nothing at all about a millennial temple of Ezekiel’s prophecy.

Furthermore, Paul referred to the disciples of Christ as God’s sacred temple. Whether they were considered collectively or individually (1 Cor 3:16, 17; 6:19), they were, in every detail, the temple of the living God (2 Cor 6:16), in which the whole “house” is joined together to become a holy temple (Eph 2:21).

In his Revelation, John the Apostle tells us, “I did not see a temple in the city [New Jerusalem], because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.” (Rev 21:22).

At the same time, John makes no mention whatsoever of any other temple in Jerusalem. Instead, we see believers raised from the dead or brought together from the corners of the earth. The multitude of believers, one by one, are gathered in small groups or assembled in innumerable masses (Rev 7:4; 14:3). 

This multitudinous “Body of Christ” will surely replace any huge building made by human hands with wood, stone, or other materials. God’s true temple will be a living family or “house” of God, as His people and His “children.” They have belonged to Christ; consequently, they also belong to his Father, who is their Father also:

You are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Gal 3:28, 29).

As a result, the Apostle Peter refers to believers in Christ as living stones.” These “stones” are joined together with the “cornerstone,” which is Jesus Christ himself, to be a “living temple” and a spiritual house, as well as a “holy priesthood.” (1 Pet 2:5, 6). “‘They will be mine,’ says the LORD Almighty, ‘in the day when I make up my treasured possessions.’” (Mal 3:17).

Those who worship God and His Son are said to be “offering sacrifices of praise,” not sacrifices of animals, but sacrifices of their own lips, praising God “for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” (Heb 13:15).

As we have mentioned already, in God’s world, “larger” is not always “better.” Great, majestic buildings do not necessarily glorify the Holy One of Israel. 

In summary, we may say that the LORD God created the universe and everything in it. He created all the earth and filled it with all His children would ever need. Then, He created His greatest gift to humanity, a perfect human “temple.” It is a place where worshippers can confidently approach their Creator and find sympathy, mercy, kindness, love, forgiveness, salvation, and finally, eternal life. 

Jesus, God’s greatest temple, was, and still is, “filled with the fulness of the glory” of his Father. (John 1:14).

We may think enormous buildings or other human creations show God’s glory. Perhaps that is so, to a limited point. But the glory which we see in God’s special Son, the glory which leads to eternal life, is what we should remember and celebrate as we take the bread and the wine. 

George Booker,
Austin Leander Ecclesia, TX


  1. All Scriptural citations are taken from the New International Version, unless specifically noted.

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