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Ezekiel's Temple Fulfilled in Christ

The connection between Paul's depiction of the living temple in Ephesians 2 and Ezekiel's visionary temple in Ezekiel 47 is an example of the deep and complex intertextuality within Scripture, particularly how New Testament writers engage with Old Testament images and prophecies. In both passages, themes of God's presence, the people of God, and the expansive, inclusive nature of God's redemptive work are central.

Ephesians 2: The Living Temple

In Ephesians 2:19-22, Paul describes Gentile believers as no longer strangers and aliens but as fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God. This imagery progresses to describe the church as a building founded on the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone. In Him, the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord. Additionally, the believers are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. This metaphor underscores the transformative work of the Gospel that breaks down barriers between Jews and Gentiles, uniting them into one new man in Christ, and creating a spiritual edifice where God dwells by His Spirit.

Ezekiel 47: The Visionary Temple

Ezekiel's vision in chapter 47, particularly the river flowing from the temple, symbolizes the life-giving presence of God emanating from His holy dwelling place. The waters grow deeper and wider as they flow out, bringing life to wherever they go, even to the Dead Sea, where they turn the salty waters fresh, allowing life to flourish. This vision is rich with eschatological significance, depicting the temple not just as a physical location but as a source of life and healing, with an expansive reach that transforms the landscape.

Connecting the Themes

1. Presence of God: Both texts emphasize the presence of God among His people—Ezekiel through the life-giving river flowing from the temple, and Paul through the Spirit dwelling in the community of believers. This presence signifies God's ongoing relationship with His people and His active role in sustaining and sanctifying them.

2. Expansion and Inclusion: Ezekiel's river brings life to all it touches, symbolizing the spread of God's sanctifying grace to all nations, not just Israel. Similarly, Paul speaks of the inclusion of the Gentiles into the previously Jewish-centric covenant community, illustrating the Gospel's power to transcend cultural and national boundaries, making one new humanity from the two.

3. Theological and Redemptive Reality: Paul's use of temple imagery aligns with Progressive Covenantalism by showing how the realities foreshadowed in the Old Testament—God's dwelling among His people and the temple as a place of meeting between God and man—are fulfilled in Christ and His church. The church as the living temple fulfills the symbolic intent of the Old Testament temple, which is portrayed in its ultimate form in Ezekiel’s vision.

John 2:21 - Jesus' Body, the Temple of God

The connection between the concept of the temple in John 2:21, where Jesus refers to His body as the temple, and the broader biblical theme of the temple as discussed in Ephesians 2 and Ezekiel 47, further enriches our understanding of temple imagery across Scripture. This connection highlights the person and work of Christ as central to the theological and redemptive transformations within the biblical narrative.

In John 2:19-21, Jesus challenges the Jewish leaders by stating, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." The Gospel writer clarifies that Jesus was speaking about the temple of His body. This statement occurs in the context of Jesus cleansing the physical temple, signaling a profound shift from the physical and geographical locus of God's presence to a personal and relational embodiment in Christ Himself. By identifying His body as the temple, Jesus asserts that He Himself is now the focal point of God's presence, the true meeting place between God and humanity.

Integration with Ephesians 2 and Ezekiel 47

1. The Fulfillment of the Temple in Christ: Jesus declaring His body as the temple is a direct fulfillment of the symbolic role the temple played throughout the Old Testament. It was the central place of God's presence, sacrifice, and atonement. Jesus embodies all these aspects, providing the ultimate sacrifice and serving as the mediator between God and man. In Ephesians 2, Paul expands this by showing that the church, united in Christ, functions collectively as the temple, built upon the foundation of Jesus, the chief cornerstone.

2. The Living Temple and the Indwelling Spirit: Both Ephesians 2 and John 2 highlight a transition from a static, physical structure to a dynamic, living reality. Jesus embodies the temple that is then raised in three days—signifying His resurrection—which in turn lays the foundation for believers to be built into a spiritual house. This ties into Ezekiel 47, where the temple is depicted as a source of life-giving water, symbolizing the Spirit’s outpouring from Jesus to give life to the world.

3. Expansion of Temple Theology: Ezekiel's vision of the temple, with its river bringing life to all it touches, can be seen as prophetic of the way Jesus, through His death and resurrection, brings the life-giving presence of God to all nations. This universal reach of the temple's influence mirrors the global and inclusive nature of the church as described by Paul in Ephesians. The temple is no longer confined to a specific location but is now a people among whom God dwells by His Spirit.

4. Progressive Revelation and Covenantal Fulfillment: The progressive revelation from physical temple to Christ and then to the church illustrates the unfolding plan of redemption. The temple, initially a building in Jerusalem, is redefined by Jesus as His body and further extended to His body of believers. This development encapsulates Progressive Covenantalism's theme of redemptive historical fulfillment, where Jesus fulfills and transcends Old Testament types and shadows.

In conclusion, Jesus' identification of His body as the temple in John 2:21 profoundly integrates with and illuminates temple imagery elsewhere in Scripture. It underscores the continuity and discontinuity within God’s unfolding redemptive plan, showing that Christ’s work on the cross and His resurrection are the climactic fulfillment of the temple’s typological and prophetic significance, with practical and theological implications for the identity and mission of the church as the living temple today.

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The first of Twenty-Seven videos gleaned from Todd Braye's excellent published work in First Thessalonians

"What is a sermon? Great question! At some basic level, a sermon is a verbal event in a specific place, at a certain time, and for a particular congregation." — Todd Braye

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In the unfolding story of God's redemption, Scripture paints a vivid tapestry of transformation and renewal, where the hope of God's people culminates in the glorious unveiling of a new creation. At the heart of this divine narrative, the prophetic vision of Isaiah merges with the apocalyptic revelations given to John, alongside the theological reflections of Paul, to reveal a multi-faceted picture of God's ultimate purpose for His creation and His people.


Why should I study God's word as a good Berean?

The Bereans were residents of the city of Berea in Macedonia. They are mentioned in Acts 17:10-15 in the New Testament as being more noble than the people in Thessalonica because they "received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so." The Bereans are often cited as exemplars for how Christians should approach the study of Scripture. Here are some reasons to consider adopting a "Berean" approach to studying the Word of God:

Openness Coupled with Discernment

The Bereans were open to listening to Paul and Silas, but they didn't just accept what was said blindly. They verified the teachings against the Scriptures. This balance of openness and discernment is crucial when studying the Word of God.

Diligent Study

The Bereans were diligent and daily in their study of the Scriptures. In a world filled with various interpretations and opinions, diligent study is essential for gaining a deep and nuanced understanding of the Word of God.

Intellectual Engagement

The Bereans engaged their minds in the study of the Scriptures. They didn't see faith as devoid of intellectual activity but integrated the two. Intellectual engagement with the text can deepen your understanding and make your faith more robust.

Community Accountability

While the text focuses on the Bereans' individual readiness and discernment, it's clear that this was also a community activity. Studying the Bible in a community can provide additional perspectives, accountability, and can correct individual biases or misunderstandings.

Protecting Against Error

One of the most crucial reasons to be like a Berean is to protect against doctrinal error. By knowing what the Scriptures say, you can discern truth from falsehood, which is increasingly important in a world filled with varying doctrines and theologies.

Spiritual Growth

Studying the Word of God isn't just an intellectual exercise; it's fundamentally spiritual. The Scriptures are described as "living and active" (Hebrews 4:12) and are instrumental in personal transformation. Taking the time to understand them deeply can significantly affect your spiritual life.

Building a Strong Foundation

Being deeply rooted in the Word allows you to have a strong foundation in your faith. This foundation is essential for enduring the trials and challenges of life, and for helping others in their spiritual journey as well.

Authentic Faith

Being a Berean means you're not just accepting what someone else tells you, but you're taking ownership of your faith. This process helps create an authentic faith rooted in understanding, not just tradition or cultural Christianity.

Nurturing a Love for the Truth

A Berean mindset nurtures a love for the truth, which is essential for spiritual health. Loving the truth enables you to live in a way that honors God and embodies the teachings of Jesus.

By embodying the qualities of a good Berean in your study of the Word, you're taking significant steps in deepening your faith, increasing your understanding, and becoming more effective in your Christian witness.

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The Psalms
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Added Psalms 76-99 (February 9, 2024)
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