THE HISTORY OF THE DIVINE PLAN (EXCERPT OF THE TEMPLE OF GOD)
Copyright © 2011 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
“The History of the Divine Plan” is taken from The Temple of God, copyright © 2011 Trumpet Ministries
The Need for Victorious Christian Living
Table of Contents
The History of the Plan
The exodus from Egypt
The Tabernacle of the Congregation
The seven houses of God
The patriarchs and prophets
The Temple of Solomon
The Body of Christ
The testimony of Stephen
The chief Cornerstone
The Need for Victorious Christian Living
The goal of the Christian disciple who has set himself to be an overcomer, a victorious saint, is to attain to the place of abiding in God’s temple to which the Father has called him. It is not always comfortable and easy (although God’s wisdom and power make it possible and restful) to match the upward calling of God with a diligent seeking of His will.
Such diligence is necessary because only the victorious saints—those who conquer through the Holy Spirit their fleshly nature, the world, and Satan—will receive the fullness of the inheritance (Revelation 21:7).
The Book of Revelation emphasizes the fact that the fullness of the inheritance goes to the conquerors. The relationship of leading an overcoming life to receiving the inheritance needs to be stressed at this time in the Church of Christ.
There is not enough being said today about the need for living the victorious Christian discipleship, the life of triumphant faith in the Spirit. Therefore the believers do not always address themselves with knowledge, purpose, and dedication to laying hold on the fullness of the inheritance.
The believers, in many instances, make a few commitments to Christ and then settle back to wait for His coming. This is a most unscriptural attitude (Philippians 3:8-15). It may be recalled that the Israelites, God’s chosen people, failed to enter their inheritance because of their hardness of heart and unbelief (Hebrews, Chapter Three; Jude 1:5).
If we set our hope on becoming a living stone in God’s Temple we must give ourselves wholly to attaining the place of abiding in Christ in which we come to rest in Him and He comes to rest in us. Every day of our Christian pilgrimage our determination to dwell in the “secret place of the most High” will be tested in one manner or another.
Some days the battle is heavy; other days are quieter. It is a moment by moment, day by day, pressing into the will of God as He leads us and gives us the wisdom and strength to overcome every enemy.
Christians who are looking for a worldly life in which some of their attention can be given to the pursuit of their own desires and some of their attention can be given to the seeking of Christ, will never be able to attain the fullness of abiding in God and Christ that they could have obtained by following Christ with singleness of purpose.
The penalty for not giving full attention to God is illustrated by the Israelites who compromised with the inhabitants of Canaan, the result being that they faced (and still face) continual warfare. They had to endure seeing their sons and daughters take up the abominable Canaanite religions. There is little rest for the Christian outside the bosom of the Father (John 1:18).
The Temple of God is in the process of being constructed now. It has been the plan of God from the creation of the world to make for Himself a habitation composed of human beings who have been transformed into the image of Christ (Romans 8:28-30).
God will dwell only in Christ—nowhere else. God in Christ will dwell in His fullness only in the believer who has been re-created completely—spirit, soul, and body. “Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (II Corinthians 5:17).
If God is to dwell in us we must “come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing” (II Corinthians 6:17). It is not possible that we can find rest in God, or He can find rest in us, until every particle of our animal nature has been dealt with.
The “wood” must be covered with “gold” (Exodus 25:11). We are being made the “Ark of the Covenant,” and the “wood” of our personality must be enclosed in the “gold” of the Divine Nature.
The History of the Plan
Adam. Over the past several thousand years the plan for the Temple of God has been unfolding and the necessary preparations, sketches, and measurements have been made. The foundation was poured in Christ. The details of God’s plan for a dwelling place were not revealed to us at the time of the creation of man nor are they all clear to us in the present hour.
Although it was said of Adam that he was a son of God and that he was in the image of God, yet it was not stated that Adam was created to be the eternal dwelling place of the Godhead.
Adam was a living soul with the breath of life in his nostrils. He was made in God’s likeness and image. God walked with Adam, not in him. We understand now that God intends to dwell not only with the Body of Christ but also in the Body of Christ. The “mystery” of the Gospel is that Christ is in us (Colossians 1:27).
In God’s mind while He was having fellowship with Adam in the Garden of Eden was a temple built on the Cornerstone, Christ, and constructed in accordance with exact specification. In the incomprehensible wisdom of God, Adam was given a few rules to obey.
Because Adam disobeyed, just as God who knows the hearts of all men knew he would, all mankind came under the power of Satan, the originator of rebellion against God.
God did not cause Adam to sin. God knew Adam would sin because God was aware of the forces that were ready to invade the Garden of Eden. Every act brought about by evil powers, from the sin of Adam and Eve through the crucifixion of Christ to the present day, serves only to further the plan of God. Such is the wisdom and power of God.
In all that happened in the garden God had a master plan that would, in the maturity of time, furnish Him with a holy, perfect, living temple in which to dwell. Through His living temple God will be able to judge all unrighteousness—the unrighteousness in the heavens and the unrighteousness in the earth.
The exodus from Egypt. As the course of mankind proceeded after Adam was driven from the Garden of Eden, the Holy Spirit began to give glimpses of the idea God has in mind concerning the building of a holy habitation for Himself.
Notice these words from the prophecy sung by Moses and the children of Israel on the occasion of their passing successfully through the Red Sea:
Thou shalt bring them in, and plant them in the mountain of thine inheritance, in the place, O Lord, which thou hast made for thee to dwell in, in the Sanctuary, O Lord, which thy hands have established. (Exodus 15:17)
“In the place, O Lord, that You have made for Yourself to dwell in.” “In the Sanctuary, O Lord, that Your hands have established.”
It is an extraordinary fact of world history that two or three million slaves from Egypt, led by a shepherd, having been directed through a deep and broad river that parted until they had passed through and then had closed on their enemies who had dared to follow them into the holy pathway, should suddenly lift up their voices in song—the entire multitude—and begin to sing in prophecy the purposes of God.
The whole Gospel story is revealed in this episode, if one adds to it the Lord’s Passover that the Israelites had just celebrated.
How the wild animals must have crouched and listened and stared in curiosity as they heard a congregation of people begin to sing in the Spirit of revelation, keeping in harmony, standing out in the desert under the cloud—the Angel of God who went before them for forty years. The acacia trees and wild shrubs rejoiced and in their own way sang with Israel the high praises of God.
Here occurred one of the most remarkable incidents in the history of mankind. God some day may provide us with a playback of this scene so we can see and hear Moses, Aaron, Miriam, and the rest of Israel singing in prophecy as the Church of God began its pilgrimage through the wilderness.
The Tabernacle of the Congregation. Notice, in Exodus 15:17, the mention of the “Sanctuary” that the Lord has established and in which he intends to dwell.
In the twenty-fifth chapter of Exodus there is another early reference to God’s desire to have a dwelling place in the earth.
And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them. (Exodus 25:8)
Heaven is the Throne of God and the earth is the footstool of God. God desires a house in which he can live and move and have His Being. He is seeking a fellowship of persons who are in His image and who can serve as His dwelling place—a house through which He can extend Himself to all His creation; a resting place in which the throne and footstool are brought together.
To illustrate and emphasize His desire for a holy dwelling place, God directed Moses to build a tabernacle according to precise specifications. “See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount” (Hebrews 8:5).
Did God Almighty actually dwell between the cherubim in that tent? He did indeed and His Glory could be seen. Moses went in to the Most Holy Place and talked to God as a friend; not as a prophet who sees visions and proclaims the burden of the Word of the Lord, but as a personal friend—face to face.
Although at a later date God came down in glory during the dedication of the Temple of Solomon, it is possible that His continuing Presence was manifest more powerfully in the Tabernacle of the Congregation than was true of the larger, more impressive Temple of Solomon.
The Tabernacle of the Congregation was the house of God until the two wicked sons of Eli carried the Ark of the Covenant into battle and it was captured by the Philistines. This occurred after Israel had settled in the land of promise.
All the time that Israel was wandering around in the desert between Kadesh-barnea and Elath, the Glory of God dwelled between the wings of the golden cherubim in the Most Holy Place.
As difficult as it is for us to understand, God actually dwelled in the Tabernacle of the Congregation. The term “house of God” was no mere figure of speech as is true of church buildings today.
The Tabernacle of the Congregation was God’s House, and if you dared to go through the entrances and approach the holy vessels you would breathe your last breath quickly, even though God’s throne was termed the “Mercy Seat” (literally, Atonement Lid or Lid of Reconciliation).
The seven houses of God. Throughout history the house of God has appeared in six different forms. The seventh form, which is the fulfillment and fullness of all that have gone before, has not been completed and perfected as yet.
The first form in which the house of God appeared was Moses’ tent, which was pitched far off from the camp (Exodus 33:7-11). Moses’ tent was termed “the tabernacle of the congregation,” but perhaps was not the actual Tabernacle of the Congregation or Tent of Meeting that was set up later (Exodus 40:17).
The tent of Moses served until God was ready to show Moses the pattern for the structure that the King James translation of the Bible refers to as the “Tabernacle of the Congregation.”
The second form in which the house of God appeared was the actual Tent of Meeting, referred to as the Tabernacle of the Congregation or Tabernacle in the wilderness. It is the one with which we are familiar, having the Altar of Burnt Offering, the Lampstand, the Ark of the Covenant, and the remainder of the seven holy furnishings.
The Tabernacle of the Congregation would be better termed the Tabernacle of God because it was a dwelling place for the Lord God, not for the Israelites. It truly was the House of God.
The third form in which the house of God appeared was the Tabernacle of David. The Tabernacle of David was a tent that David set up in Zion, a city located in the area of Jerusalem.
Inside the tent of David was placed the Ark of the Covenant, which had become separated from the Most Holy Place of the Tabernacle of the Congregation.
The Ark of the Covenant was brought to Zion by King David amid much rejoicing (II Samuel, Chapter Six). The remainder of the Tabernacle of the Congregation remained at Gibeon, at the high place—a site that had been used by the Gibeonites for the worship of their gods.
The fourth form in which the house of God appeared was the Temple of Solomon. The Temple of Solomon followed the same general design as the Tabernacle of the Congregation but was greatly enlarged and made more elaborate with costly ornamentation and additions.
The destruction of the Temple of Solomon was carried out by the Babylonians about six hundred years before Christ (II Kings 25:9). The Temple was rebuilt after the Babylonian captivity (Ezra 6:15), and again by King Herod in the first century B.C. It was Herod’s Temple that was standing during the ministry of Jesus and the early apostles. Herod’s Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D.
The fifth form in which the house of God has been revealed is Ezekiel’s Temple (Ezekiel, Chapters 40 through 48). Our point of view is, in spite of the details concerning sacrifice, that Ezekiel’s Temple represents the eternal Temple of God, the Body of Christ.
The Scripture does not teach in detail the exact relationship between the spirit realm and the material realm during the Millennium (thousand-year Kingdom Age). We do not know whether the saints of God will rule in bodies on the earth or through the Holy Spirit as Jesus does today or in some combination of these two forms. The description of the Temple of God in Ezekiel appears to have this half-physical, half-spiritual quality.
We do know that Christ and His servants will rule the earth for a period of time denoted in Scripture as one thousand years (whether literally or symbolically), and then over the new earth for eternity. It is possible that Ezekiel’s Temple outlines some of the aspects that will be true during the thousand-year Kingdom Age in which there may be situations involving flesh and blood people who are being ruled by saints who themselves are living in glorified bodies.
It seems more likely to us, however, that the representation of Christ in the first chapter of Ezekiel reveals to us the final form of glorified man, the ruler of God’s universe, and the description of the temple portrays the development of the inner character of the saint. Finally the member of Christ’s Body, having passed through the four levels of water, becomes a tree of life, planted on the banks of the River of Life, bringing life and healing to the saved peoples of the earth.
The sixth form in which the house of God has appeared is our Lord Jesus Christ. Christ is the eternal dwelling place of God. In Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead in bodily form. God the Father has His eternal rest in Christ.
All of the houses of God prior to Christ were greatly reduced in significance as soon as the Lord Jesus appeared. The Temple of Herod changed from the house of God into nothing more than an elaborate building the instant Christ came into view.
The God of the house of God stood in the streets of Jerusalem and beheld His handiwork. The supremacy of Moses, Aaron, and the Levites passed away like the dew before the morning sun. Behold, a greater than Moses was here.
The seventh form in which the house of God will appear is the new Jerusalem. The new Jerusalem is the Body of Christ, the Wife of the Lamb, the glorified Christian Church (Revelation, Chapters 21 and 22).
When every member of the Body of Christ has come to personal maturity, has been created in union with the Head, Christ, and is one with every other member, then the Head and the Body will be the eternal House of God, the Temple of God, the dwelling place of God and the Lamb forever.
Today we refer to buildings constructed by various groups, Methodist, Baptist, Lutheran, Catholic, Pentecostal, and so forth as “houses of God.” But the buildings are not houses of God.
After the people go home on Sunday at noon you can desecrate the altar, the platform, the pews, and the choir loft. You can play any secular song on the organ or piano. You can clear the area and hold a dance, gamble, smoke, curse, use God’s name in vain or do anything else. No holy fire will issue forth and slay you. No voice will proclaim, holy, holy, holy. You will not be afflicted with leprosy.
Our natural environment, living and inanimate, is affected by the Glory and Presence of God who dwells in God’s people. His Glory is revealed when the Church assembles and enters worship. Nevertheless, except for unusual instances, it is true that after the people leave, the church building, no matter how ornate, is void of the Presence of God. He has left with the saints.
(When there has been much prayer in one location one can feel the holiness of God there. But this is not the “house of God” in the same sense as the Tabernacle of the Congregation.)
It was altogether different with the Tabernacle of the Congregation. Imagine what would have happened if an Israelite went into the Holy Place, began to sing and dance in honor of a heathen god, or cursed, using God’s name in a blasphemous manner. Of course, we know that this could not have happened because if an Israelite even approached the Courtyard of the Tabernacle with such a thought in his heart he would have been struck dead instantly.
God Almighty, in all His holiness and glory, truly lived in the Tabernacle of the Congregation. It reminds us of the fact that in Christ dwells all the fullness of the Godhead. God Almighty in all His holiness and glory truly lives in the bodily form of Jesus of Nazareth.
The term church can never refer to a building. The building in which Christians worship, no matter what kind of design and furnishings it has, can never be more than a meeting hall for the Church of Christ, the true and eternal Temple of God. As the Holy Spirit announced through Stephen, God never again will dwell in a temple made with hands.
We are the Temple of God. The term church is the English translation of a Greek word that means “called out.” We are “called out” from the world to be a holy people, peculiarly God’s own.
A building can never be “called out” from the world. Therefore the term church, technically speaking, cannot be applied to a physical structure. Such usage of the word, although a long-standing tradition, tends to steer people away from the fact that God intends that every Christian leave the spirit of this age and follow Christ with an undivided heart so God may abide in him. The Christian is God’s house.
Although God lived in the Tabernacle of the Congregation and accompanied the Israelites through all their wilderness wandering (just as He accompanies you and me through all our wilderness wandering), nevertheless, the chief purpose of the Tabernacle of the Congregation is to point us toward the eternal Temple of God that is being built on the proven Cornerstone, the Lord Jesus Christ.
The burden concerning the house of God appears many times throughout the Old Testament. The idea of the house of God being constructed from God’s called-out people did not appear clearly until after the Lord Jesus rose from the dead. In Old Testament times the Israelites understood the house of God to be a physical structure, such as the Temple of Solomon or the Temple of Herod.
The patriarchs and prophets. God communicated in many different ways with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Elijah, Elisha, and numerous other patriarchs and prophets. The Holy Spirit of God came upon them and they prophesied, performed miracles, received Divine direction, conquered in battle, and exercised supernatural strength. The Glory of God was revealed in the things they did and taught.
Never once, however, did God take up His permanent dwelling in them. Yet, the New Testament, from the Gospels forward, teaches that God’s plan is to live in the believers. The new covenant re-creates the personality, spirit, soul, and body, providing a holy dwelling place for the Fullness of the Godhead.
The mystery of the Gospel is “Christ in you.” Because of the re-creation and the indwelling, the new covenant is superior to the old covenant.
Jesus stated that he who is least in the Kingdom of God is greater than John the Baptist, although John, being “Elijah” who was commissioned to announce the arrival of Christ, was the equal of any of the prophets.
God is in the process of taking up His eternal abode in each member of the Body of Christ from the least to the greatest. God did not create His eternal dwelling place in any of the prophets of old—not even in John the Baptist.
God did not fashion His sanctuary in anyone prior to His coming to earth in Christ. Work began on the construction of God’s Temple after the resurrection from the dead of the Lord Jesus.
The true tabernacle that God is establishing is being built on the holy, tested Cornerstone—Christ. The Christian Church, which is being measured from and constructed on the Rock, Christ, is the new Jerusalem, the Body of Christ, the everlasting Mount Zion mentioned so often in the Book of Psalms (Psalms 102:16; Hebrews 12:22).
The Temple of Solomon. The desire that came into David’s heart to build a house for God can be found in the seventeenth chapter of I Chronicles, beginning with the first verse:
Now it came to pass, as David sat in his house, that David said to Nathan the prophet, Lo, I dwell in an house of cedars, but the ark of the covenant of the Lord remaineth under curtains.
Then the answer of the Lord to him, verses four and five:
Go and tell David my servant, Thus saith the Lord, Thou shalt not build me an house to dwell in: For I have not dwelt in an house since the day that I brought up Israel unto this day; but have gone from tent to tent, and from one tabernacle to another.
Also, verses eleven and twelve:
And it shall come to pass, when thy days be expired that thou must go to be with thy fathers, that I will raise up thy seed after thee, which shall be of thy sons; and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build me an house, and I will stablish his throne for ever.
Solomon, David’s son, indeed did build a magnificent temple that followed the design of the Tabernacle of the Congregation. When Solomon’s Temple was finished it was dedicated with great ceremony. During the dedication the Glory of God descended into the Temple in such power that the priests were unable to enter the house of the Lord (II Chronicles 7:1,2).
The Body of Christ. When the Scripture is studied it becomes clear that the Lord was not speaking primarily of Solomon when He said, “He shall build me an house, and I will stablish his throne for ever.”
The Holy Spirit was looking down through the years to a greater Son of David, the Lord Jesus Christ. The Word of God to David through the prophet Nathan was a prophecy concerning the Body of Christ, an announcement of the plan the Lord had all along—that of the construction of the eternal dwelling place of the Most High.
King David himself was one of the most outstanding prophets of all time.
Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God hath shined. (Psalms 50:2)
Why leap ye, ye high hills? this is the hill which God desireth to dwell in; yea, the Lord will dwell in it for ever. (Psalms 68:16)
The Scripture just quoted, Psalms 68:16, describes God’s desire to inhabit Mount Zion. Spiritual Zion is the Kingdom of God, the fulfillment of David’s Tabernacle, the building of which is the purpose for the present age (Acts 15:16; Hebrews 12:22). Christ is the chief Cornerstone in Zion.
The eighteenth verse of Psalms 68 gives additional understanding:
Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive: thou hast received gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious also, that the Lord God might dwell among them. (Psalms 68:18)
The fourth chapter of Ephesians unfolds the meaning of Psalms 68:16,18:
Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Ephesians 4:8)
And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; (Ephesians 4:11)
The gifts “for the rebellious” are the gifts and ministries of the Holy Spirit, especially apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastors and teachers.
Psalms 68:18 reveals the purpose to be accomplished by the gifts and ministries given to the Body of Christ: “that the Lord God might dwell among them.” The fourth chapter of Ephesians confirms this statement of purpose: “the perfecting of the saints; for the work of the ministry; for the edifying [building up] of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12).
In the fourth chapter of Ephesians, verses seven through sixteen, the method and goal of God’s plan for a temple are set forth in brief form. Paul states, in this chapter, that God has given gifts and ministries to the Church and that the end result of the operating of these ministries is the building of the Body of Christ until it stands complete in all the will of God.
The Body of Christ is to be brought to perfect Divine unity and is to attain a maturity described as “the measure of [maturity as measured by] the stature of the fulness of Christ.”
God the Father will dwell only in Christ. He will dwell nowhere else. It is vain for the “high hills” to leap because God will dwell only in Zion, which is Christ—Head and Body. As of now the Head, Christ, is perfect. God has found His eternal resting place in the Lord Jesus Christ.
God desires to have much more room, a much larger family than this. Also, God is in the process of creating a bride for His beloved Son. In order to accomplish His goals, God Almighty has purposed in Himself to build the Body of Christ. The Body is to be fashioned from members selected by Himself (II Timothy 1:9).
In Christ, Head and Body, God can fill the universe with Himself in bodily, visible form (Colossians 1:15; Revelation 3:12).
The Christian Church is far too immature, at the present time, for a calling as high as this. Therefore God, through the ministries and gifts given to the Body of Christ, is fashioning each victorious saint with the end in view of forming the saints together into one body—a body that can be called in truth “the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ,” “the fulness of him that filleth all in all” (Ephesians 4:13; 1:23).
The gifts of the Holy Spirit are given to the Christian Church, the Body of Christ, so the dwelling place of God, Mount Zion, may be a holy and wholly fit place for the Presence of God.
When the Lord shall build up Zion, he shall appear in his glory. (Psalms 102:16)
For the Lord hath chosen Zion; he hath desired it for his habitation. This is my rest for ever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it. (Psalms 132:13,14)
Spiritual Mount Zion is the Body of Christ. Mount Zion of the physical world was one of the hills on which the city of Jerusalem was built. It was referred to also as the city of David. It was here that David installed the Ark of the Covenant under a tent, amid much rejoicing, while the Tabernacle of the Congregation remained at Gibeon (I Chronicles, Chapters 15 and 16).
Spiritual Zion is the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of God. Zion is the habitation of God, the place of His rest.
In the Book of Isaiah, Israel is asked this question:
Thus saith the Lord, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest? (Isaiah 66:1)
Here is one of the great questions of the Scriptures. The next verse gives the answer:
For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the Lord: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word. (Isaiah 66:2)
The follower of Christ who is poor and of a contrite spirit—he is the house of the Lord; he is the place of God’s rest.
Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:3)
If we are rich in our own ways and of a proud and ambitious spirit, then—Christian or not—we are not a suitable dwelling place for the Father in Christ. Christ wishes to come in to us Christians and to dine with us and find pleasure in and with us. This is not possible if we are filled already with other things—even religious things.
The testimony of Stephen. In the seventh chapter of Acts, the question concerning God’s house is asked again—this time through Stephen:
Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool: what house will ye build me? saith the Lord: or what is the place of my rest? (Acts 7:49)
The circumstances surrounding this new covenant posing of a question first asked under the old covenant are significant. The episode concerning Stephen occurred shortly after the giving of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. The elders of the Hebrew community had a witness of Christ on trial for his life.
Jesus had stated previously:
But when they shall lead you, and deliver you up, take no thought beforehand what ye shall speak, neither do ye premeditate: but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye: for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost. (Mark 13:11)
Stephen had been delivered up to the Council by some of the members of the synagogue of the Libertines, and others. They had set up false witnesses who proceeded to distort Stephen’s testimony. These attacks came after Stephen had performed “great wonders and miracles among the people.” In accordance with the Word of Christ, it was the Holy Spirit, not Stephen, who was answering the question of the high priest: “Are these things so?”
Because Stephen’s trial took place on the occasion of the birth of the Christian Church it is of the utmost importance. The charges were that Stephen had spoken “blasphemous words against Moses and against God,” and, “blasphemous words against this holy place, and the law: for we have heard him say, that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place, and will change the customs that Moses delivered us.”
Notice that it was the Jews, not Stephen, who first raised the question of “this holy place, and the law.” The battle was joined right at this point.
Under the old covenant, the Temple had been the dwelling place of God. Somehow the Jews began to be aware Jesus was going to change the location of God’s habitation. “We heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place.” What Jesus had said was, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19) referring to His own physical body.
The Holy Spirit was ready to begin building the Body of Christ which, along with the Lord Jesus, is the habitation of God. The scribes and the elders could sense the change coming, being under the influence of Satan, and so they attacked immediately. The Holy Spirit wasted no time in responding. (Acts 7:46-51).
The words with which Stephen (the Holy Spirit, actually) answered the charges should be weighed in light of the fact that they reflect one of the principal concerns of God for the Church age.
Up to this moment the elders of the Jews had supposed that God had restricted Himself to the Temple in Jerusalem and to its ordinances of worship, programs, politics, sales, and other activities. The Holy Spirit had a message for the Hebrew elders. He spoke it through the mouth of Stephen straight into their hearts:
Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. (Acts 7:51)
What the Holy Spirit was testifying to the Jewish leaders may be paraphrased as follows:
“You builders suppose I am dwelling in your temple in Jerusalem and in the activities conducted there. But I am building for Myself a temple made without hands. You have rejected the Cornerstone that I have selected. You are always resisting the Holy Spirit, as your fathers did, so do you.
“The building of My eternal Temple is at hand. Here is a living stone of My Temple standing before you, testifying to you. Yet, you cannot perceive it. My rest, My house, is constructed from the meek of the earth—the faithful, who tremble at My word. I resist the proud but strengthen the humble and cause them to stand.
“If you would submit yourselves meekly to Me with lowly and believing hearts, you would find rest and peace for your souls. But as long as you are filled with pride and your own ways I can not find My habitation, My rest, in you.”
The chief Cornerstone. The Lord God has certain specifications that must be met before He will be pleased to rest in a dwelling place. God will dwell only in His Christ, His Anointed One. Christ Himself is the only acceptable pattern for the House of God.
The Lord Jesus Christ is the chief Cornerstone in the Temple of God. Each of the other stones must be measured carefully from Him. More than that, each stone must be created by Him and of Him and He must be formed and dwelling in each of them. The Temple of God is Christ, Head and Body, brought to absolute completeness and perfection as the eternal dwelling place of God.
Why leap ye, ye high hills? this is the hill which God desireth to dwell in; yea, the Lord will dwell in it for ever. (Psalms 68:16)
The preceding verse indicates that none of the manmade institutions (“high hills”) has any hope of becoming the dwelling place of God. They may “leap,” that is to say, they may desire and attempt to become God’s headquarters. But God has chosen Zion, the Body of Christ, the Christian Church, as His home.
Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste [will never be dismayed]. (Isaiah 28:16)
To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, Ye also, as lively [living] stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. (I Peter 2:4,5)
God is in Jesus and Jesus is in God. While He was on the earth the Lord Jesus reminded us continually that it was not He who did the miraculous works but the Father who dwells in Him. Yet, as we find in the second chapter of First Peter, there are more living stones who are to be added to the eternal habitation of God.
The coming of God to dwell in His Church remained a mystery throughout Old Testament times. Now it is revealed openly by the writers of the New Testament.
We who are Christians need to be more aware of the significance of the hour in which we are living and of the nearness of the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. Our realization of His nearness should result in a Spirit-directed, diligent grasping of a life of holiness in the Presence of the Lord.
We firmly believe and desire that the Lord “shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). Not only we, but the whole creation also groans in travail, looking toward and hoping for the coming of the Day of days (Romans 8:19).
We believe also God’s purpose at the present time is the building of a temple in which he can abide continually. Let us make sure we do not go to sleep spiritually while we are waiting for Him to come, and thus miss the plan that Christ has for us as individuals at this moment.
We must make a success of the overcoming life now if we are to be able to pass successfully through the judgments that certainly will come upon the world because of the abundance of sin, and if we hope to be prepared to meet Christ when He appears.
We must give all our attention to ensuring that Jesus is having His unhindered way in our personality.
What do we Christians mean when we testify that we have Christ in our heart? Do we mean the Seed, the Word of God, has been planted in our heart? Or do we mean we have undergone a transformation of character?
Is it a fact that God and Jesus are dwelling in us? Do the Persons of the Godhead actually enter us?
A considerable portion of the Scriptures is devoted to the concept of building a habitation for God.
(“The History of the Divine Plan”, 3979-1)