The Greatest, Fastest, and Most Important Building Project Ever!
John 2:19-21, “Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking about the temple of his body.”
There have been massive, magnificent, and important building projects throughout history, and they all had one thing in common – none were built quickly.
This universal law of building construction prompted the incredulous retort by the Jewish leaders to Jesus: “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?”
The temple was an crucial element of the Jewish faith, for in it God was supposed to dwell. All of the ceremonies and sacrifices of the Jewish religion centered in the temple. When Jesus suggested that their precious building would be destroyed, their angry reaction was predictable. After all, if His body is the temple, then the Jewish temple would not be needed anymore. In this mysterious statement, our Lord actually predicted the end of the Jewish religious system.
Jesus’ word in the temple: “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up” is not about an architectural miracle on Mount Zion but the ultimate miracle from his empty tomb on Sunday morning.
The resurrection Sunday that we refer to as Easter, records Jesus’ three-day building project that forever changed the world. Jesus' death, followed by the resurrection, creates the new Temple and the new worship, and the life-giving stream for the renewal of the world. The old order is displaced by the new, not so much because the old is essentially bad - for salvation is of the Jews - but because Christ fulfills what it stands for so magnificently that it is necessary for it to have a totally new form.
What does Jesus mean when he says, “And in three days I will raise it up”? There are two levels of meaning in “I will raise up my body in the resurrection after three days. Jesus had said earlier in his ministry in John 10:17-18, “I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again.” He lays it down for our sin and takes it up again. When they destroy it, he builds it again in three days.
The second level of meaning is that the material temple would be destroyed and Jesus would build it again in three days in the sense that he now replaces this temple and becomes the new “sacred place” where everyone may meet God and fellowship with God. Remember what he said in Matthew 12:6, “I tell you, something greater than the temple is here.” And he meant himself.
When Jesus died, there was an immediate visible sign that a transformation took place. According to Matthew 27:51, at the moment of Jesus' death "the curtain of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom." This is a reference to the curtain that separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies in the Temple. No longer is there a division between secular and sacred, profane and holy. Everywhere is permeated with the presence of God.
The Tabernacle/Temple in all its splendor and ritual was incapable of bringing about what man really needed – acceptance and access to God! The old covenant was good but was never intended to be anything but an imperfect picture to prepare the people for the Perfect and forever Temple, the Perfect Priest and Sacrifice, the spotless Lamb of God, the one and only meeting place between God and man – Jesus the Messiah.
Jesus taught that his resurrection was the raising of the True Temple of Israel (Jn. 2:19-21). He has replaced the priesthood, sacrifices, and sanctuary of Israel by fulfilling them in his own glorious priestly ministry and by offering, once and for all, his sacrifice for the world, that is, for both Jew and Gentile (Hebs. 8:1-6). Believers from all nations are now being built up through him into this Third Temple (Ephs. 2:19-22), the church that Jesus promised to build (Matt 16:18; Hebs. 3:5-6).
David E. Holwerda writes, “Now that day had come. Specific sacred places no longer mattered. In fact, there are no specific sacred places, no Holy Land, no sacred building, no sacred utensil for worship Consequently, no sacred pilgrimage to the holy temple on a Holy Mountain is required. Instead, every land is, or can be holy, every building, every time or place, every utensil is or can be sacred. Worship is now universal, tied to no special sacred time or sacred place. Worship is possible in any place at any time. All that is required for true worship is the Spirit and the truth. Jesus is the truth (John 14:6), and he gives the Spirit to all who believe in him (Jn. 7:39). Thus the only requirements for genuine worship in the age of fulfillment are that one be in Jesus and have received the Spirit. Temples of stone and sacred mountains have lost their significance because God no longer dwells there to make such places sacred. God is present in Jesus, and in the Spirit, a presence that can be experienced and worshipped anywhere in the world. Jesus’ reply to the Samaritan woman in John 4 announces the end of the Old Testament temple era.”
No theology can be biblically accurate that teaches any form of Mosaic Restorationism. The concept of the Jews returning to their Holy Land so that the returned Messiah can rule over an exalted Jewish kingdom for one thousand years, complete with a re-established Jewish Temple and the sacrificial system is a flawed and erroneous interpretation.
Jesus said to the woman at the well in John 4:21-23, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. . . . The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth.” What he meant was that authentic worship will not be attached to Jerusalem (or any other place). It will be in spirit and in truth and attached solely to Jesus.
Jesus was saying to the religious leaders and to the woman at the well, “I am the new temple. When I raise my body from the dead, everywhere in all the world, people may come to God through me. There will be no pilgrimage to Jerusalem. There will be no hajj to Mecca. There will only be the movement of the heart from being outside of Christ to being in Christ forever.
As the True Temple, the Ultimate High Priest, as well as the Sacrificial Lamb of God, He offers Himself to men as the heavenly manna, which was once housed in the Ark of the Covenant in the Temple. He offers the living waters of Ezekiel’s Temple (Ezek. 47) to His hearers (John 4:10-15; 7:38-39). He is the sacrificial “Lamb of God” destined for Temple service (John 1:29). As He establishes the New Covenant (Luke 22:20), by writing it upon the hearts of His followers the Law of God (Jer. 31:31-34; 2 Cor. 4:3, 6; Heb. 8:8-11), which was formerly kept on tables of stone in the Holy of holies (Exo. 25:21; Deut. 10:5; Heb. 9:4). Thus, when He dies, the Temple era is formally ended with the rending of the veil (Matt. 27:51). When He speaks of the absolute destruction of the physical Temple in A.D. 70, He never even hints that there would be a God-endorsed rebuilding of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. Christ, then, is the True Temple. We who are His people are designated a “temple.” This is due to His indwelling presence among His people, so that we, having the True Temple within, may be called a temple. Christ in us is the hope of glory (Col. 1:27). Not only is He Who is the True Temple in us, but we are also spoken of as being “in Christ.”
What a Builder! What a Building! What an experience to be a living stone in the Living Temple! And that’s just one of the immeasurable victories of the first Easter.