Jesus is the True and Final Sanctuary in which the glory of Yahweh now dwells, the substance foreshadowed by the ancient Temple – John 2:13-22.
In the second chapter of John, we find the disciples discovered that Jesus is the True and Final Temple of God. The era of God “dwelling” in portable tents and stone buildings in Jerusalem or anywhere else had come to an end. God does not dwell in structures “made-by-hand,” nor can His presence be contained within physical or geographic boundaries.
After the Passover celebration, Jesus “went up to Jerusalem” to visit the Temple, where he observed financial transactions taking place in the “Court of the Gentiles.” This produced the famous incident when the Messiah of Israel “cleansed the Temple” and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers:
- (John 2:13-16) – “And near was the Passover of the Jews. And Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And he found in the temple them that were selling oxen and sheep and doves, also the moneychangers sitting. And making a scourge out of rushes, he drove out all of them, both the sheep and the oxen. And the moneychangers’ small coins poured he forth, and the tables he overturned. And to them who were selling the doves, he said, Take these things hence! Be not making the house of my Father a house of merchandise.”
The Temple was the center of the Jewish faith, especially its prescribed rituals. The hostile reaction by certain “Jews” to the actions of Jesus illustrates the words from the prologue of the gospel of John – “He came to his own and those who were his own did not receive him” – (John 1:11).
From the start, Christ was opposed by the leaders of the Temple. In this incident, they sent representatives to ask him for a sign that would demonstrate his authority to act as he did.
Jesus was in the “Temple,” which translates the Greek noun hieron and refers to the entire temple complex (Strong’s – #G2411). However, in verse 19, the term naos is found on the lips of Jesus (Strong’s – #G3485), and not hieron (“Destroy this sanctuary and in three days I will raise it”). The latter term refers to the sanctuary proper within the larger complex, the “Holy of Holies,” the inner sanctum where the presence of Yahweh dwelt.
- (John 2:17-22) – “His disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thy house is consuming me. The Jews, therefore, answered and said to him, What sign do you point out to us in that these things you are doing? Jesus answered and said to them, Destroy this sanctuary and in three days I will raise it. The Jews, therefore, said, In forty and six years was this sanctuary built, and you in three days will raise it! But he was speaking concerning the sanctuary of his body. When, therefore, he had been raised from among the dead, his disciples remembered that this he had been saying, and they believed in the Scripture and in the word which Jesus had spoken.”
After his resurrection, the disciples remembered the passage from the Psalms quoted here. In the Hebrew Bible, it has a past tense verb, “The zeal of your house consumed me.” But in this passage, the Greek verb tense is future, “The zeal of your house will consume me” – (Psalm 69:9: “Because zeal for thy house hath eaten me up”).
The Greek verb rendered “consume” or katesthiō is a compound of the verb “eat” (esthiō) and the preposition kata for “down” (Strong’s – #G2719). The compound form intensifies the sense of esthiō so it denotes “to eat up, consume entirely.” Thus, his zeal demonstrated in the “cleansing” of the court contributed to his arrest, trial, and execution – (Matthew 26:60-61, 27:40, Mark 14:58, 15:29).
Jesus responded to his critics. If they destroyed “this sanctuary,” he would raise it “after three days.” His opponents took his words literally, and so misunderstood his meaning. John adds a comment so his readers will not make the same mistake – “But he was speaking of the sanctuary [naos] of his body.”
Thus, Jesus declared himself the True Sanctuary, the Naos of God. His opponents would destroy “this sanctuary” when they put him to death. After his resurrection, the disciples remembered this saying and “believed in the Scripture.”
Thus, the gospel of John presents Jesus as the True and Greater Temple. Unlike the manmade structure in Jerusalem, this one will never be destroyed. He is the permanent dwelling place for the glory of Yahweh.
In him, the presence of God no longer is restricted to any structure “made-by-hand” in Jerusalem. The Divine glory is seen forevermore in the face of Jesus for all men to behold – (2 Corinthians 3:18-4:6).