In What Temple Can God Be Found?
IT IS logical and proper that the Sovereign of the universe should designate an appointed, definite way for people on earth to approach him. A lowly human creature could not reasonably expect to rush in upon him unauthorized and without the proper attitude and decorum.
God can be approached. He is not “dead,” as some claim. That is, he is not withdrawn, leaving men entirely on their own, not willing to hear our problems or to do anything about them. An apostle of Jesus Christ declared: “He [God] decreed the appointed times and the set limits of the dwelling of men, for them to seek God, if they might grope for him and really find him, although, in fact, he is not far off from each one of us.”—Acts 17:26, 27.
God is not omnipresent, everywhere at once, an all-pervading spirit. Neither are all things part of him. He created them. Being a Person, he has a location, his place of residence where he can be approached. This residence is in heaven, in the invisible realm.—Matt. 6:9.
And it is not for his own benefit, but for the benefit of men who want to approach him, that he has made special arrangements. In doing so he changed the aspect of his heavenly residence. It was not changed toward the angels, who have always had access to him; as Jesus said, they “always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matt. 18:10) It was a change so that sinful men could have a way of appeal to him and an opportunity to receive his favor.
GOD’S GREAT SPIRITUAL TEMPLE
This structure is called a “temple” or “the true tent, which Jehovah put up, and not man.” (Heb. 8:1, 2) The former temple structures in Jerusalem served only as “a typical representation and a shadow of the heavenly things.” (Heb. 8:5) The last of those structures was destroyed by the Romans in 70 C.E. Consequently, the “tent” or structure set up by God through which men can approach today is no earthly temple, cathedral or building.
In the preceding issue of this magazine we discussed the features of the typical “tent” or temple in detail. But when did the reality, the antitypical tent or temple, come into existence? It was in the autumn of the year 29 C.E. How was this so?
For answer, let us follow the procedure of the typical Day of Atonement. In this way we can see just how each feature of the “true tent” or temple came into existence.
THE COURTYARD WITH ITS ALTAR
Just as the courtyard of the temple in Jerusalem was holy and the sacrificial animals brought into it had to be perfect specimens, so the antitypical courtyard of the priests represented a condition of perfect, righteous human sonship before God. Jesus was a perfect human son of God when he presented himself for baptism in the Jordan River. God had transferred the perfect life of his Son to the womb of the virgin Mary. (John 17:5; Luke 1:35) Therefore Jesus could say to God:
“Sacrifice and offering you did not want, but you prepared a body for me. You did not approve of whole burnt offerings and sin offering. . . . Look! I am come (in the roll of the book it is written about me) to do your will, O God.”—Heb. 10:5-7.
The apostle Paul then comments: “By the said ‘will’ we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all time.”—Heb. 10:10.
God did not really want sacrifices and sin offerings of animals. (Heb. 10:8) God’s will was that a perfect human give his life as the atonement and the ransom price for mankind, who had lost life through the sin of their father Adam. The spiritual “altar” on which Jesus’ sacrifice was placed was therefore God’s “will.” Jesus’ sacrificial course began when he presented himself for baptism and was accepted by God. The spiritual “altar,” as well as the “courtyard,” were now realities—in operation. The great antitypical Day of Atonement had now begun.
THE “MOST HOLY”
Also at the same time, the spiritual “Most Holy” came into existence. How? The residence of God now took on special characteristics as regards heaven’s relationship to mankind. Jehovah was ready and willing to be propitiated, appeased, softened by a satisfying sin offering, so it was as if he throned above the propitiatory cover of the ark of the covenant, the new covenant, which would be validated by the blood of that offering. The offering that he was willing to accept was the perfect human sacrifice of the High Priest Jesus Christ.—Luke 22:20; compare Revelation 11:19.
From the time of his baptism, Jesus walked in the antitypical “courtyard” superintending his human sacrifice to the death. Here he could be seen by the people of earth, as was true of the courtyard with its altar at the tent in the wilderness. But the earthly tabernacle had a screen at its front that shut out all view of the Holy compartment inside. The Holy represented a condition of greater sacredness than the courtyard did; this was the condition of being a spirit-begotten son of God while still on earth. So, when Jesus was begotten as a spiritual Son of God at the time of his baptism, he came into a relationship to God that was “screened off” from others—not discernible to their physical eyes. (Matt. 3:16, 17) He now had a new birth to heavenly hopes, to return, in due time, to heaven to be with his Father.—Compare 1 Peter 1:23.
Inside the Holy was the golden lampstand, the table for showbread and the altar of incense. When in his public ministry Jesus walked on earth for three and a half years, he was also in the condition represented by the antitypical “Holy” of God’s great spiritual temple. He was enlightened with spiritual light as by a lampstand, he received supplies of spiritual food as from the table of showbread, and he offered up prayers and praise to his Father, as if they were incense.—Luke 4:1; 6:12, 13; John 4:32; 5:19, 20; Heb. 5:7.
While he was thus a spiritual Son of God, there was yet a barrier to his entering heaven to be with his Father. That was his flesh, just as the curtain separating the Holy from the Most Holy blocked entry to the high priest in the tabernacle. (Heb. 10:20) For “flesh and blood cannot inherit God’s kingdom.” (1 Cor. 15:50) Jesus had to die, divesting himself of the body of flesh so that he could receive the change to “divine nature,” by being resurrected “in the spirit.”—2 Pet. 1:4; 1 Pet. 3:18.
BRINGING INCENSE INTO THE MOST HOLY
The high priest of Israel went into the tabernacle several times during the Atonement Day proceedings, as shown at Leviticus chapter 16. The first entry was with a censer of hot coals upon which incense was put. (Lev. 16:12, 13) How was this fulfilled by Jesus Christ? Of course, this did not mean that Christ went into heaven before his sacrifice was finished. Rather, the entry with incense being the first one showed that it pictured something prerequisite to, and more important than, Jesus’ offering the value of his sacrifice in heaven for the purchase of mankind. What was this?
Here was foreshadowed Christ’s maintaining of integrity under test, thus proving that a man can maintain perfect faith and obedience to God. Jesus thereby exposed the Devil as a liar in his charge that God was not ruling righteously toward all his intelligent creatures, that these were serving him either from selfishness or under coercion, not out of love and true loyalty.—Job 1:9-11; 2:4, 5; Gen. 3:1-5.
Jesus stated his primary purpose in coming to earth when he said: “For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth.” (John 18:37) He maintained integrity, proving Satan a liar. (John 12:31; 14:30) Had Jesus failed in this he himself would have lost his life and could not have ransomed mankind. Just as the high priest brought incense into the Most Holy, so Jesus zealously offered up prayers, service and unblemished devotion to God throughout his whole ministry.
CHRIST’S ENTRY INTO THE MOST HOLY
The sacrifice of his perfect human life being successfully accomplished, Christ could enter the real “Most Holy” after his resurrection, not with the literal blood of his sacrifice, but with what the blood represented, namely, the value of his perfect human life. Just as the high priest of Israel made atonement first for his own priestly house by the sacrificial bull’s blood, and then for the people by the blood of the ‘Lord’s goat,’ so the atoning merit of Jesus’ sacrifice would be applied first to his household of underpriests, the 144,000 spirit-begotten, anointed members of the Christian congregation, his spiritual brothers. Later, it would be applied to humankind in general, for with his blood Christ bought all mankind.—1 John 2:1, 2; Rom. 8:29, 30; compare Hebrews 11:39, 40; Revelation 7:9, 10; Romans 8:21.
As the goat bearing the people’s sins on Atonement Day went into the wilderness, so Jesus carried mankind’s sins far off, into oblivion.—Lev. 16:20-22.
With the presentation of the merit of Christ’s sacrifice in heaven the great antitypical Day of Atonement ended. This “day” ran from the time of Jesus’ baptism in the autumn of 29 C.E. to the time of the presentation of the value of his sacrifice in heaven in the spring of 33 C.E. Ten days after Jesus’ ascension to heaven the evidence was given to his faithful disciples that the merit of his perfect human sacrifice as presented to God in the heavenly “Most Holy” had been accepted. How? By the pouring out of holy spirit upon them at Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, 33 C.E.—Acts 2:1-36.
There is, therefore, a place where you can really find God—in his true temple, which is his spiritual structure for pure worship. The way of approach is open to all people, regardless of their background. To approach God you must believe that he exists and that he is not “dead,” uninterested in you. The apostle Paul writes: “He that approaches God must believe that he is and that he becomes the rewarder of those earnestly seeking him.”—Heb. 11:6.
[Picture on page 221]
THE TABERNACLE As it might have looked with the interior exposed