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Understanding God's word

Query for the Month

of June 2002

 

Next up-date: July 1st 2002 (God willing).

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Some perpetual questions ....

Is there really an immortal soul?

What does it mean to "be led by the Spirit"?

Do you know the difference between the "love" that is of Christianity
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Query:

John 2:

19 Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”

20 Then said the Jews, “Forty-six years was this temple in building, and will You rear it up in three days?”

21 But He spoke of the temple of His body. 

Why did the Jews not understand what He meant by these words?


 Answer:

It seems that the Jewish leaders did eventually get to understand that Jesus meant His body and not the great temple.  When He was crucified they were scared that something would happen so they took precautions.  They didn't believe that He could do it to Himself, but suspected fraud by His disciples.

Matthew 27:

62 Now the next day [Sabbath morning], that followed the day of the preparation [the Friday of the crucifixion], the chief priests and Pharisees came together to Pilate, 63 saying, “Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while He was yet alive, ‘After three days I will rise again.’  64   Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest His disciples come by night, and steal Him away, and say to the people, ‘He is risen from the dead’: so the last error shall be worse than the first.”

65 Pilate said to them, “You have a watch [a guard of men]: go your way, make it as sure as you can.” 66 So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch.

But let’s look at the background of our question:

Above all others the priests and rulers should have seen in Jesus the anointed of the LORD; for in their hands were the sacred scrolls that described His mission and they knew the time had come because there was no longer a king of Jewish descent on the throne of David.  Matthew 2:4-6; Genesis 49:10.

Yet when Jesus entered the temple at Jerusalem, the money-changers,  the corrupt priests and the temple guards had not been able to stay in His presence (the children and the sick came to Him, Matthew 21:13-14).  The authorities ran as if for their lives.  Why?  To their eyes He should have appeared as a lone man with a small whip of cords in His hand tipping over tables (the whip was only a symbol, John 2:15).  

But they all knew that the cleansing of the temple was a manifestation of more than human power, for they had been convicted by the Spirit.  It was because of their guilty consciences that they could not remain in His presence.  Under the influence of the Spirit He appeared to them as the Judge of all the earth.   See Revelation 6:15-17.   Because of this they ran from Him and refused to be saved.  In that condition they could not understand His statement at first.  

Jesus said on another occasion:

John 8:

42 “If God were your Father, you would love Me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of Myself, but He sent Me.”

43 “Why do you not understand My speech?  Even because you cannot hear My word [We speak different spiritual languages]. 44 You are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father you will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie [a deception], he speaks of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it [he is self-deceived].”

45 “And because I tell you the truth, you believe Me not [you only understand false reasoning].”

46 “Which of you convinces [accuses] Me of sin [of lying when I say this]? And if I say the truth, why do you not believe Me? 47 He that is of God hears God's words: you therefore hear them not, because you are not of God.” [1 Corinthians 2:14.]

The Jewish leaders had studied the teachings of the prophets concerning the kingdom of the Messiah; but they had done this, not with a sincere desire to know the truth, but with the purpose of finding evidence to sustain their ambitious hopes. When Christ came in a manner contrary to their expectations, they would not receive Him; and in order to justify themselves, they tried to prove Him a deceiver.

When once they had set their feet in this path, it was easy for Satan to strengthen their opposition to Christ. The very words that should have been received as evidence of His divinity were interpreted against Him. Thus they turned the truth of God into a lie, and the more directly the Saviour spoke to them in His works of mercy, the more determined they were in resisting the light.  Jesus also said:

John 5:43

"I am come in My Father's name, and you receive Me not: if another shall come in his own name, him you will receive."

Jesus came by the authority of God, bearing His image, fulfilling His word, and seeking His glory; yet He was not accepted by the leaders in Israel.  But when others should come, pretending to have the character of Christ, but actuated by their own will and seeking their own glory, they would be received. And why? Because he who is seeking his own glory appeals to the desire for self-exaltation in others. To such appeals the Jews could respond.

They would receive the false teacher because he flattered their pride by sanctioning their cherished opinions and traditions. But the teaching of Christ did not coincide with their ideas. It was spiritual, and demanded the sacrifice of self; therefore they would not receive it. They were not acquainted with God, and to them His voice through Christ was the voice of a stranger. 

Is not the same thing repeated in our day? Are there not many, even religious leaders, who are hardening their hearts against the Holy Spirit, making it impossible for them to recognize the voice of God? Are they not rejecting the word of God, that they may keep their own traditions?

However, as much as they hated Jesus, the Jewish leaders of that time could not free themselves from the thought that He might be a prophet sent by God to restore the sanctity of the temple.  So, with a regard born of this fear, as they came back into the temple they went to Him with the inquiry, "What sign show You to us, seeing that You do these things?"  John 2:18.

Jesus had just shown them a sign, and in flashing light into their hearts while doing before them the works which the Messiah was to do, He had given convincing evidence of His character.  (Verse 17 and Psalm 69:9.) Now when they asked for another sign, He answered them by a parable, showing that He read their malice, and saw to what lengths it would lead them. "Destroy this temple," He said, "and in three days I will raise it up."

In these words His meaning was twofold.

He referred not only to the destruction of the Jewish temple and its rites of worship, but to His own death, as John tells us, the destruction of the temple of His body.  1 Corinthians 6:19.  This the Jewish leaders were already plotting, for as the priests and rulers returned to the temple, they had proposed to kill Jesus, and thus rid themselves of the troubler. Yet when He first set before them their purpose, they did not understand Him. They took His words as applying only to the literal temple at Jerusalem, and with indignation exclaimed, "Forty-six years was this temple in building, and will You rear it up in three days?"  Now they felt that Jesus had justified their unbelief, and they were confirmed in their rejection of Him.  Such is the way Satan often works.

Christ did not expect that His words should be understood by the unbelieving Jews.  They could have been clear to His disciples at this time but they had not made themselves ready.  To explain the words in their present condition would give His disciples a knowledge of His sufferings, and bring upon them sorrow which as yet they were not able to bear, so He didn't tell them.  Therefore neither friend nor foe appreciated them.

He knew that His words would be misconstrued by His enemies, and would be turned against Him. At His trial they would be brought as an accusation, and on Calvary they would be flung at Him as a taunt.  Matthew 26:61; 27:40. However, an explanation would prematurely disclose to the Jews the result of their prejudice and unbelief and harden their hearts even quicker. Already they had entered upon a path which they would steadily pursue until He should be led as a lamb to the slaughter.  It was a case of the "blind leading the blind" and He could not do much about it, but He left every avenue open.  Matthew 15:14.

The assurance of the future life of power over the world was what Israel had so long waited, and which they had hoped to receive at the Messiah's advent.  In reality the only light that can lighten the gloom of the grave was already shining upon them. But self-will is blind. Jesus had violated the traditions of the rabbis, and disregarded their authority, and they would not believe.

So why did He say the words?

First:

It was for the sake of those who should believe on Him later that they  were spoken. He knew that they would be repeated and puzzled over.  Being spoken at the Passover, they would come to the ears of thousands, and then be carried to all parts of the world. After He had risen from the dead, their meaning would be made plain and to many they would be conclusive evidence of His divinity.  Romans 1:1-4.  Under the guidance of the Spirit He was helping the believers believe.  Mark 9:24.

Because of their spiritual darkness, even the disciples of Jesus often failed of comprehending His statements while He was with them. But many of these lessons were made plain to them by subsequent events. When He walked no more with them, His words were a great help to their hearts. 

We have this principle in the Bible which produces two results (See Matthew 13:12):

John 8:

25 Then said they [the Jewish leaders] to Him, “Who are you?” And Jesus said to them, “Even the same that I said to you from the beginning. 26 I have many things to say and to judge of you: but He that sent Me is true; and I speak to the world those things which I have heard of Him."   

27 They understood not that He spoke to them of the Father.

28 Then said Jesus to them, “When you have lifted up the Son of man [on the cross], then shall you know that I am He, and that I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father has taught Me, I speak these things.” 

Another time, speaking to His disciples, He said...

John 16:

12  "I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 However, when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth: for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak: and He will show you things to come." 

In one case, the rejection of the truth makes the darkness darker;  in the other the acceptance of it lifts the veil.  Matthew 6:23. (The sun dries the desert but melts the ice into water - it's not the sun's fault.)

Second:

The Saviour's words, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up," had a deeper meaning than many of His hearers perceived, even after the resurrection.  

Christ was the foundation and life of the temple.  Its services were typical of His sacrifice as the Son of God and the priesthood was established to represent His position and work in heaven.  Hebrews 8:1-2.  The entire plan of sacrificial worship in the temple was also a foreshadowing of the Saviour's death at Calvary.  So He was also saying that there would be no longer any illustrative power in these offerings when the great event toward which they had pointed for ages was consummated. 

Since the whole ritual system was symbolical of Christ, it had never had any value apart from Him.  It needed to be "mixed with faith" in those that used it.  See Hebrews 4:2.  When the Jews sealed their rejection of Christ by delivering Him to death, they rejected all that gave significance to the temple and its services. Its sacredness had departed and it was doomed to destruction.

In fact, from that day the sacrificial offerings and the services connected with them were meaningless even though they were carried on for nearly another forty years.  Like the offering of Cain, they did not express faith in the Saviour and were worthless in God's sight.  Genesis 4:5.  In putting Christ to death, the Jews virtually destroyed their temple themselves. (The Roman armies did it literally in the year 70AD.)  When Christ was crucified, the inner veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom exposing an empty room, signifying that the great final sacrifice had been made, and that the system of sacrificial offerings was forever at an end.  Matthew 27:50-51.

"In three days I will raise it up."  At the Saviour's death the powers of darkness seemed to prevail, and they exulted in their victory.  But from the open grave of Joseph, Jesus came forth a conqueror.  By the third day many of His followers had given up the sacrificing of animals and replaced them with His offering.  Hebrews 10:14.

Colossians 2:

15 "Having spoiled [overcome] principalities and powers, He made a show of them openly, triumphing over them."

By virtue of His death and resurrection He became (in the minds of the new Christians) the minister of the "true tabernacle, which the LORD pitched, and not man." Hebrews 8:2.  In fact, He had always been this since sin entered the world, but now their attention was focused on Him there.  From Adam to Moses (about 2,500 years), and from Calvary to the present day (nearly another 2,000 years), Christians have not needed an earthly sanctuary, rituals, nor a priesthood.  Hebrews 8:1-2. 

But there was a period of about 1,000 years when earthly ones (the desert tabernacle and Solomon's temple, from about 1,400BC to 596BC) were needed as temporary measures to teach important truths. The second temple, which lasted from about 520BC to 70AD (with lots of rebuilding) was never used by the Son of God.  There was nothing in the second apartment, which normally housed the mercy seat (the representation of His throne), on top of the box containing the Ten Commandments.  Exodus 40:20-21.  This piece of furniture had been hidden by Jeremiah and remains so to this day.

One of the important rituals of the temple was the eating of some of the flesh of the sacrifice to signify the transfer of sin.  So it is written:

Hebrews 13:

8 Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and for ever.

9 Be not carried about with divers [different] and strange doctrines. For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace; not with meats [religious meals signifying temporary transfer of sins], which have not profited them that have been occupied therein. 10 We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the [earthly] tabernacle. [This was written before the destruction of the temple.]

11 For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the [inner] sanctuary [on the day of Atonement, Leviticus 16:11, 27] by the high priest for sin [signifying the permanent removal of it], are burned without [outside] the camp [not eaten, Leviticus 6:30]. 12 Wherefore [for this reason] Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered without the gate. 13 Let us go forth therefore to Him without the camp, bearing His reproach. 14 For here have we no continuing city [an earthly Jerusalem], but we seek one to come [from heaven].

15 By Him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name.

Men reared the Hebrew tabernacle in the wilderness; men built the Jewish  temples at Jerusalem; but the sanctuary above, of which the earthly was a type, was built by no human architect and it was to this that He now returned.

Zechariah 6:

12 "Behold the Man whose name is The Branch; . . . 13 He shall build the temple of the LORD; and He shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon His throne; and He shall be a priest upon His throne."  

The earthly sacrificial service that had pointed to Christ had lost its usefulness.  The eyes of many men and women were turned to the true sacrifice for the sins of the world, and the true place where this was administered.  See Revelation 13:8.  The earthly priesthood ceased, but we look to Jesus, the minister of the new covenant, and "to the blood of sprinkling, that speaks better things than that of [or used by] Abel."  Hebrews 12:24; Genesis 4:4.

Hebrews 9:

8  ". . . the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest [could not be easily seen], while as the first tabernacle [the earthly one] was yet standing [through Satan's deceptions it had become a hindrance to the truth]: . . . 11 but Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle [the heavenly one], not made with [earthly] hands, . . . 12 by His own blood [signifying His death] He entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us."  

Hebrews 7:

25  "Wherefore [for this reason] He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come to God by Him, seeing He ever lives [24/7] to make intercession for them."

Just before His crucifixion, Jesus spoke with His disciples and said:-

John 16:

4 But these things have I told you, that when the time shall come, you may remember that I told you of them. And these things I said not to you at the beginning, because I was with you. 5 But now I go My way to Him that sent Me; and none of you ask Me, “Where go You?”

6 But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. 7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient [useful] for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.

Though, in the minds of the Christians, the ministration was to be removed from the earthly to the heavenly temple; though the heavenly sanctuary and our great high priest would be invisible to human sight; the disciples were to suffer no loss thereby. They would realize no break in their communion, and no diminishing of power because of the Saviour's absence. While Jesus ministers in the sanctuary above, He is still by His Spirit the minister of the church on earth. He is withdrawn from the eye of sense, but through the Holy Spirit His parting promise is fulfilled, "Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world." Matthew 28:20.

And, while He delegates some of His influence to inferior ministers (under shepherds), His energizing presence is still with the people of His church. 

Jeremiah 23:

1 “Woe be to the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of My pasture!” says the LORD. [There are two kinds of pastors.] 

2 Therefore thus says the LORD God of Israel against the [false] pastors that feed My people [with lies and misunderstandings of the Bible]; “You have scattered My flock, and driven them away, and have not visited [helped] them.  Behold, I will visit upon you the evil of your doings”, says the LORD.

3 “And I will gather the remnant of My flock out of all countries whither I have driven them, and will bring them again to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and increase. 4   And I will set up [true] shepherds over them which shall feed them [with the word of God]: and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall they be lacking”, says the LORD.

Hebrews 4:

14 "Seeing then that we have a great high priest, . . . Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. 15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need."  

 

Conclusion:

Understanding His words: 

There are two kinds of spiritual blindness.  One is self-willed (chosen) and gets more and more mixed up.  The other is governed by lack of knowledge but lightens as time and events occur, until the "day dawn."  1 Peter 1:19.  But neither has to remain for long for God says:

Isaiah 42:

16 And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not [if they will accept it]; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do to them, and not forsake them.

 


Who wants to add (or subtract!) from these thoughts? I won't argue as I have stated, but I will publish your Scriptures so that we may review all the words of God on the subject.
Next thought. To be discussed from July 1st 2002.

Matthew 14:

3 For Herod had laid hold on John, and bound him, and put him in prison for Herodias' sake, his brother Philip's wife. 4 For John said to him, “It is not lawful for you to have her.” . . .

10 And he sent, and beheaded John in the prison. . . .  

12  And his disciples came, and took up the body, and buried it, and went and told Jesus.

Matthew 11:

11 [He replied] “Verily I say to you, Among them that are born of women there has not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” 

If John was so great a worker for God then why did he end up in prison and then have his head cut off?  Why did God not protect or at least release him?


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