The Tulip Driven Life Podcast

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Eschatological Temple of the Church

“Isaiah 2, Joel 2, Acts 2, and the Eschatological Temple of the Church”
By: Andrew G.

This article was originally published on Post Tenebras Lux

In Acts chapter two, Luke records the Apostle Peter’s famous sermon in Jerusalem at Pentecost. There were Jews present from all around the Roman Empire: men from “Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya around Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs” (Acts 2:9-11). Prior to Peter’s address, the Holy Spirit was outpoured on those present, thus resulting in the miracle of enabling the different peoples to understand each other in their own native dialect. While some were amazed at this miracle of tongues, others perceived the people as being drunk. Luke then records Peter’s sudden intervention and subsequent sermon, of which the first part is quoted below:

14b “Men of Judea and all you who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you and give heed to my words. 15 For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only the third hour of the day; 16 but this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel:

17 ‘And it shall be in the last days,’ God says,
‘That I will pour forth of My Spirit on all mankind;
And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
And your young men shall see visions,
And your old men shall dream dreams;
18 Even on My bondslaves, both men and women,
I will in those days pour forth of My Spirit
And they shall prophesy.
19 ‘And I will grant wonders in the sky above
And signs on the earth below,
Blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke.
20 ‘The sun will be turned into darkness
And the moon into blood,
Before the great and glorious day of the Lord shall come.
21 ‘And it shall be that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’

In vv. 17-21, Peter quotes Joel 2:28-32, though in vs. 17 he interestingly substitutes the phrase “in the last days” in place of Joel’s “after these things.”[1] This substitution is taken from Isaiah 2:2, which is the only place in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament and the translation that Peter and Luke would have used) where the exact phrasing is used.[2] This phrase is the beginning of a prophecy of Isaiah which describes the renewed and eschatological (i.e. end-times) Mountain of Zion and temple of Yahweh:

Now it will come about that
In the last days
The mountain of the house of Yahweh
Will be established as the chief of the mountains,
And will be raised above the hills;
And all the nations will stream to it.
And many peoples will come and say,
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of Yahweh,
To the house of the God of Jacob;
That He may teach us concerning His ways
And that we may walk in His paths.”
For the law will go forth from Zion
And the word of Yahweh from Jerusalem.

Concerning this substitution of the phrase “in the last days” and the prophecy to which it alludes, G.K. Beale writes, “Thus, Peter appears to interpret the Spirit’s coming at Pentecost upon the Christian community in fulfillment of Joel also to be the beginning fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy of the end-time temple, under the influence of which the nations would come.”[3] The outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost therefore is seen to be the official inauguration of the end-times temple-building project. The Apostle Paul comments on this end-times temple building project in Ephesians 2:19-22:

19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.

The end-times temple is therefore the church, the place in which the Spirit of God dwells and whose stones are believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. The Apostle Peter writes,

And coming to Him [Jesus Christ] as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

We therefore are not looking for a physical temple to be built in Jerusalem by the Jewish people, as Dispensationalism erroneously declares; rather, by the preaching of the gospel and the regeneration of hearts, the end-times temple is currently being built up by the Holy Spirit. Every time a sinner repents of their sins and believes on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ a living stone is added to the temple; and it will not be until the end of the age, when all the elect are converted, that this glorious end-times temple building project will be completed and consummated.

                [1] G.K. Beale, A New Testament Biblical Theology: The Unfolding of the Old Testament in the New (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2011), 136; Alan J. Thompson, The Acts of the Risen Lord Jesus: Luke’s Account of God’s Unfolding Plan (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2011), 128.
                [2] Beale, A New Testament Biblical Theology, 136.
                [3] Ibid.