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A House Made Without Hands

By William Bell

“Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth or ever You had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.” (Psalm 90:1-2).

For those familiar with this text and the prologue of the Gospel of John, this verse is parallel to John 1:1-3 and verse 14.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.”

The gospel of John is a spiritual journey of Jesus Christ leading the church through the second Exodus. Israel had failed their mission to be a light to the world, i.e. to the Gentiles. They lived under a covenant which could not take away sin, and thus make them “perfect” (righteous) as it pertained to the conscience. The services of their tabernacle/temple only reminded them of sins every year. It never removed them.(Hebrews 10:1-4).

John, connecting the first verses of his gospel, to David’s Psalm per above, affirms that the Christ, before the world existed and through whom the world was created entered the world as the tabernacle of God.

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we behold His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14).

The word, “dwelt” is from eskenosen a verb form of the noun “skene” which means tabernacle. Thus, the Lord, in his physical presence on earth, came as the tabernacle or true dwelling place of Israel.

It is important to note the phrase, “and tabernacled ‘among us'”. This highlights the Old Covenant relationship of God among Israel resulting from Adam’s sin in the garden forward.

Adam, who sinned through disobedience, brought death upon mankind, not physical death, which is the understanding of most theologians, ministers and the church, but sin-death, i.e. separation from God. (Gen. 2:16) How else did Adam die the day he ate? It certainly was not physical death.

Another reason is because Adam was also told his “eyes would be opened.” This has no reference to his physical eyes. He was not physically blind. Nor did his eyes begin to open gradually over the remainder of his life. Just as he died that day, his eyes were opened that day. We have no other choice but to conclude this to be true or take the position of the Satan who said such would not occur, thus calling God a liar. God forbid.

The third reason we say that physical death was/is not the penalty for sin is because physical death existed in the creation from the very beginning. God’s law of procreation (which implies death) was evident from the law of the seed. He commanded the earth to bring forth grass, with herbs and fruit trees yielding fruit according to their kind.

Botanists, horticulturists and farmers (as all Bible students should) understand the law of seed reproduction. Both Jesus and Paul spoke on this point.

“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.” (John 12:24)

Jesus said, a seed cannot reproduce but remains alone unless it falls into the ground and dies through the process of germination. That is the law of Genesis 1:11. That law was made before man was ever created. Therefore, death, natural death was part and parcel of God’s creative work. A dying or death process must occur for a seed to bring forth (germinate).

Paul said, speaking of resurrection (which many erroneously assume to be that of a physical body) “Foolish one, what you sow is not made alive unless it dies.” (1 Corinthians 15:36). Thus, whatever is “sown” must be alive, then die after (not before) it is placed into the ground. This verse derails all futurist concepts of biological resurrection.

The law of nutrition also confirms natural death was a part of God’s original creation. For living creatures, whether insects, aquatic life, land animals or birds, and even man to survive, they had to eat. Carnivores eat other animals, and those animals die before, or during the process. Reptiles eat their prey while it is yet alive.

Even the consumption of plants involve death through digestion which is eliminated in the body’s waste system. Adam’s natural body was capable of dying from the start because he was dust.

Thus to argue natural or biological death entered the world through sin, is to grossly misunderstand and misread Genesis. An incorrect start in Genesis always leads to an incorrect finish in Revelation.

Adam did not experience biological death the day he ate of the tree? He lived 930 years.

Christ as the Tabernacle of God in the Flesh

Jesus, entering the world as the tabernacle of God is significant because God, in the Old Covenant dwells in the holy of holies, i.e. in the tabernacle/temple. However, the message for Israel was that the glory of the tabernacle did not originate in the structural building
“made with hands” but in the God who indwelt that building.

This is evident because when Israel sins, God’s presence departed from the tabernacle/temple. Examples from the Exodus, after the Aaron’s golden calf episode leaves them abandoned temporarily while God’s Presence abode upon Moses alone, until he interceded and they repented, (Exodus 32-33).

Later when the nation would be removed from their land and temple due to their abominations and the destruction of the temple by Nebuchadnezzar, God promised to be a sanctuary (a temple) for the righteous remnant while in captivity.

“Therefore say, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Although I have cast them far off among the Gentiles, and although I have scattered them among the countries, yet I shall be a little sanctuary for them in the countries where they have gone.'” (Ezekiel 11:16).

Once again, this text reiterates the message that God alone was Israel’s true dwelling place or temple. Thus, Jesus, coming in the flesh, dwelt among Israel.

Dwelling “among” Israel was not the goal of God. Dwelling “among” Israel indicated that sin was yet a barrier. Sin, and death by sin, reigned from Adam to Moses, (Romans 5:14, 20).

Misunderstanding Jesus’ Words

In the second chapter of John, after Jesus cleanses the temple, the Jews question his authority. His reply was misunderstood by the Jews and largely by the churches today.

“Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews, as often was the case in the gospel of John, misunderstood and misapplied the words of Christ. In every case where this happens, Jesus is speaking of spiritual things, while they are focused on material things. See the following:

  • The new birth, John 3
  • The living water, John 4
  • Resurrection out of the graves of sin, John 5
  • The true place of God’s worship, John 4:19-24
  • Jesus as the Bread from Heaven, John 6
  • Jesus as King of the Jews, John 6
  • Jesus as the resurrection, John 11:25-26

In every case above, the emphasis is on spiritual things, while the Jews focused on outward, natural or material things. The same is true of Jesus’ words in John 2:19-21, as is commonly done even by the church today.

The Jews immediately cite the embellishment of the temple by Herod which they say took 46 years. They questioned his sanity in saying he would rebuild the temple in three days.

The Temple of His Body

Jesus, spoke of the temple of His body. Here again, the churches by and large misunderstand the words of Christ. What body (temple) would Jesus raise up in three days?

Most focus on his physical or biological body. They believe Jesus’ physical body underwent a change and became a spiritual body. They cited his ability to walk through doors as proof. To this we respond that Jesus walked on water, and through crowds before his death. The ability to walk through closed doors was no more difficult a feat than to walk on water, raise a dead body, or cause the blind to see.

Rather, we affirm that Jesus’ physical body was raised from the dead, in the same natural state it was before he died. He demonstrated that very clearly in that he appeared to his disciples, was flesh and bone ate and digested food and had healing wounds just as any normal body would. (Luke 24:39)

More significant however is Jesus promise to raise up the “temple” in three days. According to Matthew 26:61; Mark 14:58, he would raise up or build another [temple] made without hands.

The Exodus from Israel’s World of the Flesh

In Jesus’ death, he departed from the world of the flesh, i.e. Israel’s Old Covenant world, never to return again. At his transfiguration, Moses and Elijah appeared and spoke with him about his decease, (Luke 9:31). The word decease in that text is translated from the word “exodus”. Therefore, Jesus was making an exodus from the world of the flesh in his death.

He died to the Old Covenant world and rose into a new world. Paul writes that Jesus was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, but was raised according to the Spirit of holiness by the resurrection from the dead. (Romans 1:3-4)

Peter wrote that Jesus was put to death “in the flesh” but was made alive “in the Spirit.” (1 Peter 3:18) These phrases are “locatives” in the Greek, and refer to location or states not to bodily substance. They are not biological antithetical states. They are covenantal states. We demonstrated above that Jesus had the very same biological body that was crucified when he was raised, with wounds and had a fish dinner to prove it.

What then, does the text mean which says he was raised “in the Spirit”? He had entered a new state and relationship before God. His dwelling was no longer “in the flesh” but in the Spirit.” This is the same concept which Paul affirms for Christians who have died with Christ when he says they no longer dwell in the flesh but in the Spirit.

“But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you….” (Romans 8:9). Paul also says those in the “flesh” cannot please God. Paul did not write to a biologically dead church or to a congregation of spirits. If living in the flesh refers to having a biological body, then no Christian living today or at anytime in the past could please God!

In 2 Corinthians 5:16, Paul said Christ could no longer be known according to the flesh. “Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. (2 Corinthians 5:16). Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, behold, all things have become new” (v. 17).

Moreover, the disciples knew Jesus according to his physical body. They knew him by handling him with their hands, and looking upon him with their eyes, (1 John 1:1). They ate with him, talked with him and were taught by him.

They knew his physical biological presence. So what does Paul mean? He is speaking of Jesus’ Old Covenant existence in the world of the flesh. He had departed or made his exodus from the Old Covenant world of Israel, thus beginning the new spiritual second exodus of the church, as the new “born again” Israel comprised of Jews and Gentiles, the children of Abraham by faith, (Galatians 3:8, 26-29).

Jesus died to that Old Covenant world of sin and ministration of death under which he was born (Galatians 4:4) never to return again. From the time he was raised, he now lives in the realm of the Spirit. He was made alive in the Spirit, (1 Peter 3:18).

The House Made Without Hands

In Jesus’ resurrection, God laid the foundation stone for a new temple. It was a “house not made with hands.” Every time we see the phrase “house not made with hands” in the Bible, it always refers to the church, i.e. the spiritual corporate body of Christ, not to his physical human body. It is used of the kingdom in Daniel 2:44-45 to speak of the “stone” cut out of the mountains “without hands,” and abbreviated form of “made without hands.”

When God raised Jesus from the dead, a foundation stone was laid in Zion. (Isaiah 28:16). This is the stone which the builders (the Jews, according to the flesh) rejected which became the head of the corner, the chief corner stone. This stone is the first and most important cornerstone of a new spiritual temple, (Ephesians 2:19-22; 1 Peter 2:4-8).

Because of their rejection of Jesus, God would take away the kingdom from the Jews and give it to another spiritual nation, i.e. to Christians, 1 Peter 2:9-10. This event was fulfilled in 70AD when Rome destroyed Jerusalem and burned the structural temple to ground, (Matthew 24:2-3, 34). The glory had departed from Israel forever, never to return to that Old Covenant existence.

Christ and God are the New Spiritual Tabernacle/Temple

Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John saw the holy city New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.” (Revelation 21:1-3). This is the parousia or the “second coming” of Christ in His glory.

John sees no structural temple in this new city because God and Christ are the temple. “But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.” (Revelation 21:22)

Peter, once again in quoting Isaiah 28:16, says Christ is the “living stone” rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious. Those who believe in Christ are built up with him on the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Christ as the chief cornerstone, (1 Peter 2:4-8; Ephesians 2:19-22).

God Now Dwells “In” His People

Jesus has brought about a new relationship with God and his people. He has reunited heaven and earth by opening the very gates of heaven.

Just as Jacob saw the place where angels ascended and descended upon the ladder as none other but the house of God, (Genesis 28:12-17) John introduces Jesus as the ladder which fulfills Jacob’s vision, (John 1:51).

Jesus came as the “new and living way” which he opened through the “tearing of his fleshly veil, (Hebrews 10:19-20), another text confirming Jesus was the tabernacle in the flesh being put to death, so he could build another spiritual tabernacle, the house not made with hands that can never be destroyed (Daniel 2:44-45).

“And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be my people…”(2 Corinthians 6:16-17).

All who believe and die with Christ in baptism enter into the temple of God and become part of it as they are joined to Christ. Those who are baptized into Christ, put on Christ, literally are clothed with Christ, (Galatians 3:26-27).

Christ, as we have shown, is the new spiritual tabernacle or temple. Therefore, believers put on or clothe themselves with the new spiritual tabernacle, i.e. Christ in their dying with Him in baptism.

Thus, Paul writes of the “house not made with hands” in 2 Corinthians 5:1ff, as a reference to the spiritual body of Christ, i.e. the “heavenly prepared tabernacle of God” which came down out of heaven to be with men.”

Here again, he shows that believers clothed themselves with this tabernacle house from heaven. This clothing prevents their spiritual nakedness. It is the swallowing up of mortality by life. It is the resurrection. This confirms Jesus’ words. I AM the Resurrection, (John 11:25-26).

Jesus is the true heavenly tabernacle. He is the Building of God with which we are clothed. To put on Christ is to put on the immortal, spiritual body of the church and kingdom of God, –the house not made with hands. One text, Galatians 3:27 focuses on the “already” whereas 2 Corinthians 5:1-4 focuses on the “not yet”, the latter being consummated at the Parousia (coming) of Christ in 70AD, when the kingdom was taken from the Jews, per Matthew 21:42-43.

The Tabernacle Swallows Up Mortality With Life

Here we must see the connection between 2 Corinthians chapter 5:1-5 and 1 Corinthians 15:53-56. Putting off mortality and putting on immortality, equates with putting off the Old Covenant earthly tabernacle and the putting on of Christ, i.e. the new heavenly spiritual
tabernacle. It is the resurrection.

Jesus said. I AM, the Resurrection and the Life. Thus, Paul refers to the Christ as the tabernacle of God in verses 53-56, in the removing of death, i.e. the death of Adam which caused separation from God.

As the Jews misunderstood Jesus and ascribed his words to the physical temple, the church by and large today misunderstands the teaching of the house not made with hands and ascribes it to Jesus’ physical body, with the unfortunate result of ascribing resurrection to our physical bodies. It is not. It is the new spiritual temple or house of God, the corporate body of Christ. It is none other than the kingdom of God, Hebrews 12:28.

Note in Hebrews 12:27, where things which are made (an elliptical reference to the temple made with hands) is contrasted with the kingdom which cannot be destroyed. We have noted Daniel’s reference to the kingdom as the stone cut out of the mountain “without hands,” i.e. not made with hands.

In this mountain is where sin and death are swallowed up of life, (Isaiah 25:6-8). For those in Christ, there is no more death. Jesus said, those who believe on him have passed out of death into life and shall never die. Whether they live physically or die physically, they always live spiritually with him. (John 5:24f; 8:51-52; 11:25-26; Luke 20:36; Romans 8:38).

Summary

We have shown that God who created the world was Israel’s dwelling place throughout all their generations, (Psalm 90:1-2). Jesus is identified with Psalms 90:1-2, in John 1:1-3,14, when he comes to earth to dwell as the tabernacle of God in the flesh. However, this was not his permanent objective.

He would die to the Old Covenant world of the flesh, i.e. to the law, sin and death, and be raised in the Spirit. His resurrection in the New Covenant world of the Spirit is the beginning of the new temple of God, i.e. the spiritual temple also called the church or the [spiritual] body of Christ.

We are clothed with this tabernacle, i.e. with Christ himself through baptism that mortality may be swallowed up of life. Jesus consummates the tabernacle presence of God in his Parousia or coming, when the heavenly city, the new Jerusalem came down from God out of heaven at the end of the Old Covenant world of Judaism in 70AD. “Behold the tabernacle of God is with men…there shall be no more death in the “house not made with hands.”

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2 comments

  1. Regarding Mark 14:57/John 2:19/Matt. 21; Matt. 23-24; Rev. 21-22:

    The goal of bringing forth these false witnesses was to trap Jesus into saying that He was the Messiah or God and thus be able to put Him to death for “blasphemy.”

    Although it is true that Jesus was not discussing the destruction of the physical temple in John 2:19, the destruction of the Temple was a part of Jesus’ teaching (Matt. 24/Mark 13). One could also adduce from His teachings in Matt. 21:33-46/Ps. 118 that He would replace this temple with Himself. So in what way were these men “false witnesses”?

    In the ancient world, the destruction of a place of worship was a capital offense (Josephus The Antiquities of the Jews 10. 6.)

    The Jews of that day were divided on the Temple in the age to come. Some thought the temple would continue. Some thought God Himself would destroy the temple and re-build another. Others thought the Messiah would destroy and re-build another temple.

    1) IF John 2:19 is the ONLY source for what the false witnesses are referring to, then they are bearing false witness about what Temple Jesus would destroy in this context, and simply implying that he would replace it with a spiritual one – which is something He likewise did not say in that context.

    2) He did teach on the Temples destruction, but it had more to do with the Jews themselves destroying it – because of their sins of blood-guilt than Him doing it for unjust reasons (cf. Matt. 23-24). So even if they are combining the two – it would be false witness here as well – as to who is responsible.

    3) It is feasible to connect Jesus’ teaching in Matt. 21/Ps. 118; Matt. 23-24 with Him re-building another spiritual temple being identified in Himself (the Chief Cornerstone) at the same time the physical Temple would be destroyed. But He never said these two events would take place within a period of “three days” – so that too would be “false witness.”

    My guess is that these were “false witnesses” in that they were getting paid to say they heard things they didn’t, or in trying to put together teachings of Jesus out of context – or for both. It is no wonder they “couldn’t agree” on their testimony – thus disqualifying them and according to the law they should have been judged!

    But the Biblical facts are that Jesus did destroy His body/temple and in three days raised it both physically and at the same time was put to death in the realm of the flesh of the OC world and was raised three days later in the realm of the Spirit or NC world of life – being the spiritual Cornerstone.

    Jesus is both God and Messiah and He justly destroyed their Temple within their generation (due to their sins of blood-guilt) and at the same time He and the Father being the Spiritual Temple clothed and now dwells within the Church (John 14/Rev. 21-22).

  2. Since William began his article in Psalm 90 establishing that God/Jesus is the Tabernacle/Temple from eternity, we should quickly make a couple of other observations in this Psalm.

    1) I would agree with commentators whom make a connection with Adam going back to the dust at 930 years and not achieving God’s years – being typified of a 1,000 in Psalm 90:2-4. One is descriptive of man’s mortality and temporariness the other of immortality and perfection. It is also note worthy that 90:4 is Peter’s and John’s OT echo of a 1,000 years in 2 Peter 3 and Rev. 20. It was during this period of time that the spiritual Temple of the Church was being built up and perfected.

    a. Perhaps there is some significance of Jesus being OC Israel’s King in the realm of the flesh and spirit for 70 years. He is the Last Adam and through a span of 70 years brought the Church from the dust of Adam and mortality (930) to immortality and life — 930 (first Adam from dust) + 70 (last Adam from heaven) = 1,000.

    2) Psalm 90:15 is one passage where some Jews developed a 40 year millennium of or days of Messiah being a transition period between “this age” (OC age) and the “age to come” (Messiah or NC age). It would be a new exodus “according to the years” of the first – 40.

    3) Psalm 90:17 if I recall was a prayer they performed as they were building the Tabernacle/Temple – which the Holy Spirit was involved with in giving the workers the ability to perform the task. Under the NC, the building up of the Temple between AD 30-AD 70, was through the preaching of the gospel and the work of the Holy Spirit with the laying on of hands of the Apostles. God has truly “established” this work forever and we enjoy its splendor.

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