God did not resurrect a dead building, or resurrect the old system of priests, rituals and sacrifices in the temple – Christ was resurrected as a living, breathing Body! Instead of God’s presence being in the holy of holies in a physical temple, by His Spirit (Breath) He now lives in each person’s holy of holies (spirits). Jesus said: “Something greater and more majestic than the temple is here!” Matt. 12:6. People no longer needed to GO to a temple or attend the synagogue to meet God; THEY themselves were the temples and vessels containing the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19, 2 Cor. 6:16)! God was dwelling in THEM and was with them constantly. They were now a house of prayer in the true meaning of the word; true, daily communion with God, any where at any time. Instead of needing priests in a physical building, we are all made into priests to serve our God in His House (Christ) day and night (Rev. 1:6, 5:10). Pretty amazing, and yet total heresy and very threatening to the priests in their temples built by man, right down to this very day.
“Do you not discern and understand that YOU are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit has His permanent dwelling in you?” (1 Cor. 3:16). There are many verses like this one that I had grown up hearing and yet did not comprehend. Like all truth, it requires God to open our eyes to see and to open our ears to hear. Christ symbolically destroyed the old temple and the old system through His death; it DIED, it was finished! He said “Destroy the temple and I will rebuild it in three days” but He was not speaking of reforming or rebuilding an earthly religious system or building; He was referring to Himself, His Body which was resurrected as the new House of God and of which WE are each a part! “Now you are Christ’s Body and you are members of it, each part distinct (each with his own place and function)” 1 Cor. 12:27. “IN HIM the whole structure is joined and welded together harmoniously, and it continues to rise and grow into a holy temple IN THE LORD. IN HIM you yourselves also are being built up into this structure with the rest, to form a fixed abode or dwelling place of God IN, BY, THROUGH the Spirit” Eph. 2:21,22.
We usually get spiritual things around the wrong way, we think that the physical will bring about the spiritual, that outward things will have an inward effect. But the outward will result naturally only if/when the inward has already happened (eg been brought about by God)! IF it were the other way around, then WE would be in control. WE could make things happen by ourselves, WE would be as God, WE would have a method! This way there is NO method, NO relying on ourselves or other people, only relying on God to supply our needs. One way relies on ourselves and others; the other relies solely on God. Doing something physically in order to try to cause something spiritual to happen, is the very essence of being earthly rather than heavenly.
The Old versus the New
There was a major change between the old covenant and the new covenant which was why the religious people were so upset with Jesus and killed Him. Under the old covenant the temple (or place of worship) had been built for God to inhabit and for His people to meet Him in, and it was called the house of God. An intermediary (pastor or priest) would speak to the people on behalf of God. However with the arrival of the Messiah and the new covenant, all of this changed!
In speaking of the physical temple building and its rituals here on earth, the writer to the Hebrews said that it was “by this the Holy Spirit points out that the way into the true Holy of Holies is not yet thrown open as long as the former tabernacle remains a recognized institution and is still standing, seeing that that first tabernacle was a PARABLE, a visible symbol or picture of the present age…” (Hebrews 9:8-9 AMP). The prophets of the Old Testament knew and wrote of this:
Thus says the Lord: Heaven is My throne, and the earth is My footstool. What kind of house would you build for Me? And what kind can be My resting-place? Isaiah 66:1.
But will God actually dwell with men on earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You; how much less this house (temple) which I (Solomon) have built! 2 Chron. 6:18.
He (the Messiah) shall grow up in His place and He shall build the true temple of the Lord. Yes, you are building a temple of the Lord, but it is HE Who shall build the true temple of the Lord… Zech. 6:12,13.
The old covenant was external; the new covenant is internal. The old covenant had an external tabernacle, priests, rituals, sacrifices and had the laws of God engraved on tablets of stone within the ark; the new covenant is internal, each one is a living sacrifice with the laws of God engraved on their hearts and each one is a priest to God and hears and knows God for themselves (Jeremiah 31:33-34 & Hebrews 8:8-12).
When Christ was crucified He fulfilled the requirements of the Law of sin and death and ushered in the Law of Life and liberty; when He cried “It is finished” the veil in the Holy of Holies was ripped in two because the Way to the throne of God was now open and unveiled: “Destroy (undo) this temple, and in three days I will raise it up again. Then the Jews replied, It took forty six years to build this temple (sanctuary) and will You raise it up in three days? But He had spoken of the temple which was HIS BODY” John 2:19-21.
Christ’s Law of Life
We can unwittingly allow ourselves to remain under the old covenant; the laws and traditions and religions and works of men which say you must do many things in order to please God. Jesus declared that He is Lord of the Sabbath. He broke the rules of the religious Jews and they wanted to kill Him for it. He became a stumbling block to them as was prophesied (Isaiah 8:14,15 & Romans 9:33). He was illustrating the difference between the old covenant and the new. Under the new covenant it is not important that we DO religious things but that we ARE a holy and sanctified thing because we are in Him and He is in us! If we ARE a holy thing then what we do will be holy also.
Christ is truly our Sabbath rest because He has done all the work for us; He has completely fulfilled the law’s requirements. We can no longer please Him by trying to do what is right; we please Him by recognising, accepting and resting in Him and what He has already accomplished for us through His death and resurrection!
“What can we attain without effort? How can we ever get anywhere if we do not move? But Christianity is a queer business! If at the outset we try to do anything, we get nothing; if we seek to attain something, we miss everything. For Christianity begins not with a big DO, but with a big DONE.” 1
This is the Law of Life which brings freedom rather than the law of sin and death which brings bondage. I am not saying that we do nothing at all, but that the source of all our doing must be from who and what we ARE in Him, rather than from our own works or efforts. Our flesh delights in doing things and we waste much time in fleshly activity just as Martha did; but God delights in seeing us waste ourselves at His feet as Mary did.
We need to differentiate clearly between life and actions. Life is bound to express itself in actions, but actions are no substitute for life. Many Christians put forth a tremendous amount of effort in their desire to be Christ-like; but the Life of Christ is always spontaneous. Even natural life functions spontaneously… Excessive effort indicates sickness. The movements of a healthy body are spontaneous and often unconscious. 2
First and foremost of the unwritten laws of the church is that you must attend a building (or meetings!) every Sunday – this seems to be a difficult mindset to break through because our security is often in IT instead of in God. The Body of Christ in Acts initially met not only at the temple (as was their custom and culture), but daily in each other’s homes, sharing meals and the Bread of Life together. They understood that something had changed: THEY were now the temple of God! Initially some went to the temple to evangelise the Jews and tell them of this radical new Way, but they got kicked out of the synagogues or put in prison for their trouble. By the time the book of Hebrews was written things had changed significantly:
Although we can watch the steady advance of divine purpose through the book of Acts, yet even at its close we find that the Christian concept has not completely clarified. However, when we read the letter to the Hebrews, we see that the Christian has emerged from a transition stage and his personality has become thoroughly integrated. In the Acts he is both Jew and Christian. He meets for fellowship with other Christians outside the temple; nevertheless, he still visits the temple. But when we come to the book of Hebrews we find that he is no longer both Jew and Christian; he is simply Christian. And he no longer meets with his fellow Christians at times inside the temple, at times outside the temple. What he could do when the Spirit was newly poured out in Jerusalem, he cannot do now that the tide of the Spirit is sweeping onward to the ends of the earth. In Hebrews we find that he has forsaken the temple for “the true tabernacle which the Lord pitched, not man”, and he has forsaken the many sacrifices for the “one offering” by which the believer is “perfected forever”…. Therefore the writer to the Hebrews explains that the realization of God’s purpose in establishing the New Covenant involved the complete abolition of the old order to which the Jewish believers clung so tenaciously. 3
Religion Brings Death
One of the reasons why Stephen was stoned to death by the religious people was because he understood this truth and the religious leaders did not like it or want to hear it. He said to them: “It was Solomon who built a house for Him. However, the Most High DOES NOT DWELL in houses and temples (buildings) made with hands; as the prophet says” (Isaiah 66:1,2). “Heaven is My throne, and earth the footstool for My feet. What kind of house can you build for Me, says the Lord, or what is the place in which I can rest? Was it not My hand that made all these things?” Acts 7:47-50.
The believers grew and thrived as a living Body rather than a religion for the first couple of centuries. Eventually the Emperor Constantine decreed that Christianity was a valid religion and that buildings and regular meetings were necessary. This meant it became like pagan religions with their temples, priests, pulpits and holy days and so the church as we know it was birthed. Effectively the people were being put back under the law from which Christ had paid such a dear price to set them free. “Therefore, I do not treat God’s gracious gift as something of minor importance and defeat its very purpose; I do not set aside and invalidate the grace of God. For if justification comes through observing the ritual of the Law, then Christ died groundlessly and to no purpose, His death was then wholly superfluous. Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the Holy Spirit as the result of obeying the Law and doing its works or was it by hearing the Gospel and believing it? Was it from observing a law of rituals or from a message of faith?” Galatians 2:21, 3:2.
Many people worldwide are now hearing God call them out of the doing and busyness of religion and church and are instead finding Christ Himself as their Sabbath Rest and Life. “Has the Lord as great a delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices (religious activity)as in OBEYING the voice of the Lord?” We must each have (and give each other!) the freedom to hear, listen and obey God for ourselves. We are each responsible for our own decisions and actions. If He has not told us to leave the church, we need not feel condemned for staying. Conversely we must not condemn those who HAVE heard Him call them out and who have obeyed Him, often at great personal cost to them and their families.
Every age has its own characteristics. Right now we are in an age of religious complexity. The simplicity which is in Christ is rarely found among us. In its stead are programs, methods, organizations and a world of nervous activities which occupy time and attention but can never satisfy the longing of the heart. The shallowness of our inner experience, the hollowness of our worship, and that servile imitation of the world which marks our promotional methods all testify that we, in this day, know God only imperfectly, and the the peace of God scarcely at all. If we would find God amid all the religious externals we must first determine to find Him, and then proceed in the way of simplicity…. When religion has said its last word, there is little that we need other than God Himself. The evil habit of seeking God-and effectively prevents us from finding God in full revelation. In the “and” lies our great woe. If we omit the “and” we shall soon find God, and in Him we shall find that for which we have all our lives been secretly longing. 4
Ah, but what about not forsaking assembling together, I hear someone cry! We are a Family and families do not usually have to organise a meeting in order to relate to one another, we get together whenever we can in a more real and natural environment than within a religious building once a week. We love to have fellowship (which means the intimacy and joint participation of our shared Life in Christ) with brothers and sisters wherever and whenever we meet up with each other! As we share one another’s lives we find that we are sharing His Life within each of us and we have communion with Him and one another. The focus is again on real relationships rather than religious rituals. (To read more on this subject see: “Assembly Required“). Looking at this verse in its context we see that this is what “assembling together” is supposed to be about, because you cannot watch over one another or admonish one another if there is not a friendship and close relationship there to begin with: “Let us consider and give attentive, continuous care to watching over one another, studying how we may stir up to love and helpful deeds, not forsaking or neglecting to assemble together as is the habit of some people, but admonishing, warning, urging and encouraging one another, and all the more faithfully as you see the day approaching” Hebrews 10:24,25.
What Jesus is Building
This worldwide City, the New Jerusalem that Jesus is building, has only one Architect and Builder, it has only one High Priest. These children of God have only one Father, these sheep have only one Shepherd and they hear and know His voice and follow only Him. And this Body has only one Head which directs, governs and controls it: “If we are one with the Head, we are one with the Body, even if we are not gathered together. But, if we are not one with the Head, we are not one with the Body, even if we are gathered together.” (Chip Brogden).
We simply ARE the temple of the Holy Spirit no matter where we are or who we are with. We are a part of the Body regardless of where our Head takes us! We are the children of God, born from above, members of God’s Family – we are heavenly rather than earthly. Our life source is not from religion and ritual on this earth, but from vital relationship with the One who IS Life! “Do you not know that your body is the temple, the very sanctuary of the Holy Spirit Who lives within you, Whom you have received from God? You are not your own, you were bought with a price, purchased, paid for, and made His own. What agreement can there be between a temple of God and idols? For we ARE the temple of the living God; even as God said, I will dwell in them and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” (1 Cor. 6:19,20 & 2 Cor. 6:16).
The Greek word “ekklesia” is the word translated incorrectly as ‘church’ in English (see the article Leaving Church for more on this). Ekklesia means those called to an assembly or gathering, and did not ever mean a religious building! It is a composite of two Greek words, “ek” (out of or away from) and “kaleo” (called). So what are we called out of and away from? We are called away from the world and called out of its system which includes man’s religions and man’s attempts to reach God; especially through organised religion. Religion has always attempted to reach God and please God by what WE DO. It is fleshly, it is relying on ourselves and our programmes instead of on God – it is in the place of Christ, it is idolatry, the way of Babylon. “I then heard another voice from heaven saying, Come out from her (Babylon), my people, so that you may not participate in her plagues” (Rev. 18:4).
WE are now the living stones being built into the Temple of the Living God; Jesus said that HE would build and assemble His called out ones together, this is something spiritual which cannot be built by man. Men like conformity, we like to build with bricks instead of stones because we can make bricks be all the same shape and size so they are easy to fit together. We may make our own bricks of mud from this earth (by insisting on conformity or man-made “unity”) and build with those bricks, but we may also end up building a religious tower of Babel to try to reach God ourselves. HE will build and add to His City, not man. Living stones cannot be incorporated into a building of bricks; it won’t work! His Temple, which He alone is building, is alive and well and victorious so that He, and He alone receives all the glory and honour for the work of His Spirit in us!
We have an altar from which those who serve and worship in the tabernacle have no right to eat. Let us then go forth, from all that would prevent us, to Him outside the camp, bearing the contempt and abuse and shame with Him. For here we have no permanent city, but we are looking for the one which is to come. Hebrews 13:10,13,1.
1 page 11 “Sit, Walk, Stand” by Watchman Nee
2 page 35 “Twelve Baskets Full 1” by Watchman Nee
3 pages 11,12 “Twelve Baskets Full 1” by Watchman Nee
4 pages 17, 18 “The Pursuit of God” by A W Tozer