Chapter One

Get the Picture?

God loves to communicate to us through the use of pictures and stories. We can easily see throughout the Old Testament how He communicates spiritual truth by using stories, people, animals, and even inanimate objects.

One such “picture” is the rock at Horeb that Moses struck with his staff. Paul tells us in the New Testament that this rock was Christ. It provided water for the children of Israel. The rock was a “picture” of Christ who provides us with the living water. Of course, this is just one such example of the way God uses pictures to communicate His Son to us.

I believe this is because of the way He made our minds. An image tends to leave a longer lasting impression on us than an audible message. Sometimes we see an image or a picture and can remember it for months or even years afterwards. However, if we hear a spoken message we will usually forget what was said within a week or even a few days. Somehow, the images stick in our minds longer. I believe the reason that our minds work this way is because that’s how God’s mind works. After all, we were created in His image, even though that image was marred through the Fall.

God is not primarily a word God. What I mean by that is that He thinks and communicates primarily through the use of pictures instead of words. Like they say, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” God would rather show us things by giving us pictures than by lengthy spoken explanations.

I know that many of you right now are wondering about the bible. I mean, isn’t the bible the Word of God and filled with His words? Yes, of course. But please notice with me that most of those words are used to describe pictures. Let me just point out a few to illustrate my point. The Garden of Eden, the tree of life, the river of life, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, the man made out of dust, the woman made out of the man, the land of Canaan, the land of Egypt, the lamb that was slain, the desert, the manna, the rock, the stone tablets, the tabernacle, pillar of fire, the cloud, the temple, the people of Israel, the star, the manger, the baby, the shepherd and sheep, the bread, the vine and branches, the wine and wineskin, the door, the way, etc. Of course, we could go on and on with all the pictures in the bible but I think I’ve made my point.

Our God is a God of revelation. He likes to reveal things to us. There is something He wants to show us and He does that by an unveiling or by revealing it to us. You could think of it as a beautiful statue that is behind a veil or a curtain. He opens the curtains very slowly to show us more and more of the statue. He opens our eyes to see things. Of course, we are speaking spiritually here and many times the pictures have to enter our minds before they enter our spirits.

Since our spirits are not very developed, God must try to get through to us by giving these pictures to our minds. The mind will hold images longer than anything else. Then, He has a chance to open our spirits to receive the image that is in our mind. Hopefully, we will choose to receive this image and learn to perceive it with our spirits. God reveals the truth behind the picture to our spirits in order for us to understand spiritually instead of just intellectually.

The Picture of the Temple

The scriptural picture that I will focus on in this book is that of the Temple. This is an image that runs all the way through scripture and can be found, in one form or another, throughout the whole bible.

We will not be so concerned with the picture itself, but rather the reality behind the image. The image reminds us of and points us to the reality. When I see a photograph of my grandchildren, it makes me smile. I smile not because of the photo itself, but because of who the photo brings to my memory. It’s the children themselves that make me happy. The photo only serves as a reminder or as a sign pointing to the reality.

There is much reality behind the picture of the Temple in both the Old and New Testament. If I could sum up in one phrase the meaning and purpose of the Temple, it would be as follows: the Temple is the meeting place of God and man.

The Temple as a Garden

The first temple was actually a garden; the Garden of Eden. This was the place where God met with man. Since this is before the introduction of sin and the fall of man, we can see many pictures in the garden that show us God’s original intention or purpose for man. God wanted man to cultivate and take care of this garden. He also wanted him to eat of every tree except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God especially wanted man to eat of the tree of life so that he would have divine life, God’s own life, within him. He wanted man to be His image (picture) of Himself.

The Tabernacle in the Wilderness

The tabernacle, or “tent of meeting,” is a beautiful picture of God’s meeting place with man. Moses built this tabernacle according to the exact specifications given to him by God Himself. You can read about the actual structure of the tabernacle in Exodus 25-27. It was basically constructed with three sections: the outer court, the holy place, and the holy of holies. These three sections have great spiritual significance as we will see later on in this book.

The writer of Hebrews tells us that the tabernacle (or temple) was a mere copy of realities in the heavenly realm. (See Hebrews 9) So we see that the New Testament tells us that the tabernacle was a copy or picture of something that existed in the other, spiritual realm (heaven). Understanding this spiritual tabernacle will be key to your knowing how to fellowship with your Lord.

The Temple of Solomon

David was the one who had a burning desire to build a permanent place in which God could dwell. During the kingly reign of David, Israel became a settled nation and was no longer wandering around like nomads. The tabernacle was still in captivity in Gibeon and David went and captured the Ark of the Covenant and brought it to Zion, the city of David. God gave him the strategy and plans for building the temple and David assembled 163,850 men to build the magnificent structure. Some of the stones weighed over 100 tons each! The whole house was overlaid with gold; it took over seven years to build it, at a cost of over 175 billion dollars!

Although David had the desire and plans to build the house, because he had been a man of war and bloodshed, the actual task was given to his son, Solomon. This is just as the Father gave the task of building his eternal home to his Son, Jesus Christ.

The layout of the temple was similar to the tabernacle except that it was larger and contained six sections instead of just three. These levels began at the ground floor and each section was higher than the last until you reached the House of God which contained the holy place and the holy of holies.

The Temple of Zerubbabel

Solomon and the nation of Israel fell away from the Lord and began to once again worship idols instead of the living God. So God allowed Nebuchadnezzar, the king of the Babylonians, to rise up against Israel, destroy Jerusalem and the temple, and take captive the people of Israel.

After they returned from exile, Zerubbabel and Nehemiah led the rebuilding of the temple of Solomon. Even though it was not as glorious as the original, God did bless it so that the people could be reunited again around the house of God.

The Temple of Ezekiel

There was another temple in the Old Testament that was seen but never actually built. That was the temple that was seen in the vision of Ezekiel in Chapter 40 following to the end of the book.

Even though this vision is supposed to be describing a temple, the description suspiciously sounds a lot like the description of the New Jerusalem at the end of the book of the Revelation. Even the description of the water flowing out of the temple and the trees with healing leaves sounds like the river of life that flows out of the throne of God and the tree of life in the New Jerusalem. However, in the New Jerusalem, it is said that there is no temple because God and the Lamb are the temple of the city. Revelation 21:3 tells us that a loud voice spoke from the throne to declare that the tabernacle of God is now among men. The temple is in the city and that temple is the dwelling place of God. In fact, that temple is God!

The Shadow is Always Limited

The temple in the Old Testament represented God’s great desire to dwell with man. The word “temple” is usually translated as sanctuary in both Old and New Testaments. The word “sanctuary” means a house or dwelling place that is a refuge, a place of safety and rest. God has always been looking for a place to live and rest, a place that He can call “home.” That’s what the picture of the temple was all about, God wanting to make His home among men.

The temple also represented the overwhelming desire that God has to fellowship with man. The temple was the meeting place of God and man. God has always wanted to have deep relationship with man. He created us so that He could be one with us. He desired to have a companion, a counterpart, a help meet with whom He could have communion.

Now we know that the physical temple in the Old Testament was a shadow or picture of something that was yet to come. Shadows are always very limited and fleeting. The temple was very restricted in serving its purpose of being a meeting place for God and man for two simple reasons. First, man had fallen and was a sinful creature; therefore God could not have fellowship with him in his present state. He could not eat of the tree of life and have intimate fellowship with God because of his condition. Secondly, the temple was limited because it was a physical building. It could only be in one place at one time. When the temple was destroyed by the Babylonians, there was no place for God and man to meet.

The glory of God only actually entered into the small room called the holy of holies. That was the only place where His presence could be found. But because of the sin problem, only the high priest could enter into that room; and that was only once per year, to make atonement for the sins of the people. Because those sacrifices were only temporary, the priest had to keep going back into the holy of holies to make sacrifices every year.

So we see a temple that is very limited in its reach, flexibility, and access. The coming of the New Covenant would resolve these limitations forever.

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