The theme of building is one that recurs frequently throughout the Bible, and stones, temples, and houses are motifs which appear over and over again. The great building work of the Bible is the holy temple of God, and the significance of this great temple cannot be overstated. The Bible describes four holy temples which are built throughout history:
The first temple – The temple of Solomon:
Built by the wise King Solomon, this temple was destroyed just before the Babylonian captivity. After the return of Israel it was rebuilt again.
The second temple – The temple of Herod:
Built by Herod for the Jews in the last century before Christ.
The third temple – The temple of the tribulation period.
This temple is said to be rebuilt in Jerusalem during the ‘tribulation period’ after a covenant with ‘the Antichrist’.
The fourth temple – The millennial temple.
This temple will be built in Jerusalem after the coming of the true Messiah (Ezek. 40-44). It is described as the fourth temple.
The holy temple of the tribulation period spoken of in the Book of Revelation is perhaps the most famous example of the four mentioned above. This is because many Christians believe we are now living in the last days referred to in Biblical prophecy, and look toward Israel for work to commence on the physical building which is to form ‘God’s house’. According to this interpretation, this building work must be completed before the return of the messiah.
But Jesus said:
The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed
So, it is my contention that the physical/historical/literal aspect to the Bible is inferior to the spiritual aspect – afterall, as I have argued in other articles, it is a book primarily concerned with spirituality, not politics.
My kingdom is not of this world.
– John 18:36
So if God’s house is not a literal building, what is it?
Well, there are a few ways to answer this.
We will start by breaking down the components of the metaphor – lets look at some of the things the Bible says about ‘God’s house’, including some of the many building instructions for the temple:
Then the king commanded, and they quarried great stones, costly stones, to lay the foundation of the house with cut stones. So Solomon’s builders and Hiram’s builders and the Gebalites cut them, and prepared the timbers and the stones to build the house.
1 Kings 5:17-18
So David gave orders to gather the foreigners who were in the land of Israel, and he set stonecutters to hew out stones to build the house of God.
1 Chronicles 22:2
So we know the temple is to be made from cut stone. We get stone by quarrying rock. Rock is used in the bible as a metaphor for God:
And they remembered that God was their rock, And the Most High God their Redeemer.
“For who is God, besides the LORD? And who is a rock, besides our God?
2 Samuel 22:32
“There is no one holy like the LORD, Indeed, there is no one besides You, Nor is there any rock like our God.
1 Samuel 2:2
“Trust in the LORD forever, For in GOD the LORD, we have an everlasting Rock.
“The LORD lives, and blessed be my rock; And exalted be God, the rock of my salvation,
2 Samuel 22:47
‘Do not tremble and do not be afraid; Have I not long since announced it to you and declared it? And you are My witnesses Is there any God besides Me, Or is there any other Rock? I know of none.'”
“The Rock! His work is perfect, For all His ways are just; A God of faithfulness and without injustice, Righteous and upright is He.
“Trust in the LORD forever, For in GOD the LORD, we have an everlasting Rock.
So if rock represents God, what are the stones which will be used to build ‘God’s House’ symbolic of? The answer is us – we are the stones. We are the great building work that the Bible speaks about. We are a ‘chip off the old block’. Afterall, ‘God created mankind in his own image’ (Genesis 1:27). We are in the process of being cut into shape and positioned together to build something beautiful and incredible beyond our wildest imaginings.
Attend to Me, ye that follow after righteousness, that seek Jehovah, look back unto the Rock from which ye were hewn.
And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 2:4-5
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?
1 Corinthians 6:19
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.
So church buildings, beautiful though they are, are not necessary to find God – we need only look within to discover He has been there waiting, all along.
Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.
Looking at the symbolism of the Bible in this way breathes new life into the scriptures. When we understand that the temple is the body, we can see that it is through our thoughts, attitudes, and actions that we offer true worship God. In the Old Testament scriptures, the temple was a place where God’s ‘chosen people’ (spiritually awake) would offer ‘sacrifices’ to God, but as I have stated in other articles, the sacrifice God requires is not a literal fatted calf. Rather, we are to offer ourselves as a living sacrifice by offering spiritual sacrifices, not physical ones. This entails dying to self, using our ‘temple’ (body) to live a life of love. By learning to love others we serve God, after all, as Jesus himself said:
…as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.
The symbolic reading also reveals why Jesus got so angry when he found moneychangers and men selling doves in the temple. The dove is symbolic of a manifestation of the holy spirit – this is how John the Baptist recognises Jesus as the Messiah:
…and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove
Therefore, the image of moneychangers selling doves in the temple becomes all the more poignant when we uncover its hidden meaning: exchanging ‘doves’ (our ‘holy spirit’) for money in the temple (body) is using the life you have been given for personal gain instead of giving, pursuing materialistic goals instead of higher spiritual ideals.
Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’”
This is the ultimate act of spiritual prostitution – using your life pursuing material goals inhibits spiritual progress, and is like selling your soul to ‘the Devil’ (ego) for a few gold coins. Afterall, ‘You cannot serve both God and money’ (Matthew 6:24). This is because when we devote too much of our energy and attention to money or personal ambition, we are feeding and therefore strengthening ‘the beast’; the primitive, Darwinian, animal part of us that is driven by fear to compete for survival.
Jesus said, “Blessed is the lion which becomes man when consumed by man; and cursed is the man whom the lion consumes, and the lion becomes man.”
The Gospel of Thomas, 7
This ‘lion’, the animal-like aspect of us, which is referred to as ‘the flesh’ in the Bible, is the ego, which is rooted in fear. It blocks our ability to love and show compassion, because it focuses us on ourselves and our own survival. It makes us preoccupied with threats to our survival, which we manage by pursuing power in order to feel safe, and hoarding up material things to defend against a terrifying and uncertain future. The ‘lion’ symbolises the animal self which tries to feel safe by controlling its environment and others in it – it is fierce, ruled by emotions, and very tribal. It is the false self which finds its identity in relation to the world – like a lion, it is a pack animal, going around in groups. The lion’s group is called his ‘pride’ – how poignant. His power is illusory; he is subject to his conditions, and his status as ‘pack leader’ is unstable. He is ruled by emotion and is thus very easy to control, easily provoked, and driven by a compulsion to pursue his desires – even to his ruin.
The ‘man’, conversely, is the divine self – he is no longer subject to his animal drives and has achieved mastery over his former nature. Divine ‘man’ walks on the water, unfazed by the swirling tantrum of the storm. He seeks not power over others, but power over himself, which he then extends to others, saying ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid’ (Matthew 14:27). Though he extends his hand to others to lift them up, he is not is not a pack animal. He is solitary; a single individual who finds his root in himself – he is ‘in’ the world, but not of it. When this ‘divine’ man (Jesus/truth) enters the temple (body), he ‘[drives] out all who were buying or selling there.’ (Matthew 21:12)
I can live alone, if self-respect, and circumstances require me so to do. I need not sell my soul to buy bliss. I have an inward treasure born with me, which can keep me alive if all extraneous delights should be withheld, or offered only at a price I cannot afford to give.
Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
The purpose of spirituality is to lead us to this treasure, which happens when we become human beings by ‘consuming’ the egoic, animal part of who we are – hence, ‘blessed is the lion which becomes man when consumed by man’. For so many of us, the reverse is true – the lion – or ego – is fully in control, and has devoured our humanity in its insatiable, perpetual hunger.
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour
1 Peter 5:8
This is our true spiritual practise – ‘overcoming the devil’ by going into the temple (ourselves) to find God (love).
Ironically, it was the religious leaders who were most misguided about the true nature and purpose of life, and Jesus admonished them for their short-sighted and punishing legalism.
“Blind guides! What sorrow awaits you! For you say that it means nothing to swear ‘by God’s Temple,’ but that it is binding to swear ‘by the gold in the Temple.’ Blind fools! Which is more important—the gold or the Temple that makes the gold sacred? And you say that to swear ‘by the altar’ is not binding, but to swear ‘by the gifts on the altar’ is binding. How blind! For which is more important—the gift on the altar or the altar that makes the gift sacred? When you swear ‘by the altar,’ you are swearing by it and by everything on it. And when you swear ‘by the Temple,’ you are swearing by it and by God, who lives in it.
Gold has no objective value above any other natural substance – its relatively high worth lies in the value we human beings have ascribed to it. We can also read gold in this context to symbolise money or other highly prized material objects. Money, even more so than gold, has no objective worth beyond that which we confer upon it – it is but a promise symbolised by paper or numbers on a screen, and it’s only value lies in our trust and belief. Jesus’ reminder that people will flippantly swear by the legitimately valuable ‘Temple’ (themselves), but solemnly swear by ‘the gold in the Temple’ (financial agreements) reveals the way in which people have elevated material things above life itself. This isn’t an archaic bit of text, expounding a ritual no longer relevant in today’s world – the majority of the world swear by the gold on the temple all the time. Every time we enter into a legally binding financial arrangement such as a mortgage (which literally means ‘deathpledge’) we are swearing by the gold in the temple. We often sign our life away in such arrangements.
One need only look at the world to see countless examples of the distorted thinking which treats life as cheap, and money as sacred. Consider sweatshops, where little children work in appalling conditions for a pittance, making cheap and increasingly disposable goods for Western markets. We live in a world where the bottom line is all that matters – where our worth is largely measured by our income, and human beings are exploited or used as cannon fodder by moneyed interests in the name of ‘progress’. This is a total perversion whether one believes in God or not, because the material objects we slave away to produce or own have no objective value whatsoever. The best car in the world may as well be a toilet, as far as a bird is concerned: its worth is nothing more than an illusion, or delusion, to state the brutal truth. From dust it came, and to dust it will return. The whole, great show – the entirety of human society and endeavour – we have imagined it all. If the world economy crashed tomorrow, the natural world would not notice. It is all a dream, and we are all asleep – until we wake up, which is what spirituality is all about. Understanding that the temple is the body reveals all these profound layers of meaning to those who have eyes to see.
Looking at the incredible structures found in our natural world alone, not to mention the staggering magnitude of the universe, it does not make sense that the creator would require man to build a temple. If it doesn’t make sense, it usually means we’re ‘seeing’ but not perceiving, ‘hearing’ but not understanding.
Paul acknowledges that God does not need physical, man-made structures in Acts:
For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship–and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.
“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.
Again, we must peel away the superficial layers to reveal the deep and enduring meaning. Idols are often characterised in the Old Testament as objects of worship crafted by human hands – usually in the form of figurines. However, this is just a metaphor for the folly of excessive reverence for human endeavour – the great ‘unknown God’. This figurative interpretation is now widely accepted – even among more fundamentalist sects of Christianity. How many of us are worshipping unknown Gods? How many of us live for our careers, our money, our self-image?
You must kill everything in you that belongs only to earthly life: fornication, impurity, guilty passion, evil desires, and especially greed, which is the same thing as worshipping a false god. All this is the sort of behaviour that makes God angry.
Such false gods were described by Ezekiel, who was given a vision of the temple. Standing at the entrance of the temple is ‘the idol that provokes [God] to jealousy’ (Ezekiel 8:3). He is then told to ‘look towards the North’, and again sees this idol of jealousy. Interestingly, the idol itself is not described – but we know that it blocks the entrance to both the north gate of the ‘inner court’, and also the north gate of the altar, and that it makes God jealous. God says:
“Son of man, do you see what they are doing—the utterly detestable things the Israelites are doing here, things that will drive me far from my sanctuary? But you will see things that are even more detestable.”
Ezekiel is then taken to the ‘entrance of the court’ and instruct to dig through the wall. He finds a doorway, is instructed by God to “Go in and see the wicked and detestable things they are doing [there].” (Ezekiel 8:9)
So I went in and looked, and I saw portrayed all over the walls all kinds of crawling things and unclean animals and all the idols of Israel
As I have argued above, the spiritual journey of man is a journey away from the base, carnal, animal man, and toward Christ – divine man. Ezekiel’s vision of ‘crawling things’ and ‘unclean animals’ depicted on the temple walls is highly symbolic – it speaks of our ‘animal’, carnal passions, which are but ‘images’ (illusory):
Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images of mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.
This is Satan – the ‘beast’ or ‘antichrist’ which sits in the temple declaring itself to be God. This is the human ego, driven by insatiable desire. It was the mind that put Christ (divine man) to death – Jesus was put to death in Golgotha, which means ‘place of a skull’! The fascinating parallels do not end there: Jesus, ‘the light of the world’ (John 8:12, John 9:5) had 12 disciples – the brain has 12 pairs of cranial nerves which control all the activities (voluntary and unvoluntary) of the body, and are activated by electrical signals. The Old Testament describes 12 tribes of Israel camping in the desert, with 4 leading tribes based at the front, and 8 based behind them.
Every man shall pitch by his own standard with the ensign of their fathers house. Far off about the tabernacle of the congregation shall they pitch.
The twelve tribes which surround the tabernacle are the 12 cranial nerves which surround the midbrain. A tabernacle is a kind of temporary dwelling place like a tent, and it is in this tent that the ark of the covenant is located. The Hebrew word for ark is aron (“a closet”) and symbolises the mind. Jesus instructed his disciples not to be like ‘the hypocrites’ who ‘love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others’. Instead, he instructs them; ‘enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly’ (Matthew 6:6) – he is describing meditation. There are many such references to meditation, for those that have eyes to see:
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God
I will meditate on Your precepts And regard Your ways. I shall delight in Your statutes; I shall not forget Your word.
On the glorious splendor of Your majesty And on Your wonderful works, I will meditate.
He who despises his neighbor lacks sense, But a man of understanding keeps silent.
When the Lamb broke the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.
Tremble, and do not sin; Meditate in your heart upon your bed, and be still.
And He got up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Hush, be still.” And the wind died down and it became perfectly calm.
I will bless the LORD who has counseled me; Indeed, my mind instructs me in the night.
The triune brain theory posits that there are three different sections of the human brain which influence our body, thoughts, and behaviour:
The Basal Ganglia (Reptilian brain) – ‘That Old Serpent’
Interestingly, at the bottom of the skull is the basal ganglia, or ‘reptilian brain’. This is the oldest part of the human brain (‘that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan’ Revelation 20:2) and includes the same structures found in the brains of reptiles. It is primitive, instinctive, habitual, and plays a central role in ‘reward learning’ – namely, addictions and addictive behavior.
The Limbic brain – ‘The seat of Judgment’
The next section of the brain is the Limbic brain – this emerged in the first mammals, and can record memories of behaviours that produced either pleasant or unpleasant experiences. The main structures of this part of the brain are the hippocampus, the amygdala, and the hypothalamus. This part of the brain is largely responsible for our emotions, and is the seat of the value judgements we make (often unconsciously) which drive our behavior.
The Neocortex (Latin: new bark)– The Father
One of the most characteristic features of primates, the neocrotex contains two cerebral hemespheres responsible for language development, abstract thought, imagination, and consciousness. The neocortex being highly flexible and posessing almost inifinte learning abilities, has been largely responsible for the development of human cultures.
Further, there are 22 characters in the Hebrew alphabet used to compose ‘the word’ of God. In chapter 22 of the Book of John, Jesus refers to himself as ‘the alpha and omega’ – the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. The number 22 is the key to unlocking divine revelation in the Bible. Indeed, in Isaiah 22:22, it is written; “And the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder; so he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open.” Perhaps it is no coincidence that the human mind is housed in the 22 bones of the human skull…
It is in our mind (at ‘Golgotha’, the place of a skull) that we destroy the truth (Jesus), and it is in our mind that he is resurrected:
This is how you can recognise the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God
1 John 4:2
We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always consigned to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our mortal bodies.
be transformed by the renewing of your mind
You are the temple – you were made in the image of your creator, and he lives in you. The temple, the tabernacle, and the house all refer to your body, and inside it is your opportunity to meet with the Creator of all…
Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.