The Temple and the Tabernacle of God

by T. Austin-Sparks

Chapter 1

"And David said, Solomon my son is young and tender, and the house that is to be builded for the LORD must be exceeding magnifical, of fame and of glory throughout all countries: I will therefore now make preparation for it. So David prepared abundantly before his death." 1 Chron. 22:5.

"And the man said unto me, Son of man, behold with thine eyes, and hear with thine ears, and set thine heart upon all that I shall shew thee; for to the intent that I might shew them unto thee art thou brought hither: declare all that thou seest to the house of Israel." Ezek. 40:4.

"Who is left among you that saw this house in her first glory? and how do ye see it now? is it not in your eyes in comparison of it as nothing? The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the LORD of hosts: and in this place will I give peace, saith the LORD of hosts." Haggai 2:3,9.

"Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days? But he spake of the temple of his body." John 2:19-21.

"In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: in whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit." Eph. 2:21-22.

"Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are." 1 Cor. 3:16-17.

"And after that I looked, and, behold, the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened... And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God." Rev. 15:5, 21:3. "And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches." Rev. 3:14-22.

There seems to be a very forceful significance about the way in which the Lord introduces Himself to the church at Laodicea. You notice the state of things represent a state of spiritual blindness, which means that the truth is not seen, especially the truth as to their own state, a state of self-satisfaction, self-fulness, self-confidence, self-sufficiency, self-glory. As the Lord sees them He sees a lie and a deception, just exactly the opposite of the way in which they see themselves. They think they are rich, He sees that they are poor; they think they have glory, He sees them as being rejected; they think they know, He sees that they are in blind ignorance. The whole thing is, though they do not recognise it, a falsehood from every standpoint and the opposite of what the Lord would have and requires. There was an utter falling short of the divine mind.

To a state like that the Lord presents Himself as the Amen: “These things saith the Amen...” (Rev. 3:14). We understand that word to mean the Verily, the Truly. It is a word which was frequently on His lips in the days of His flesh. Whenever He was going to present something of particular and peculiar meaning and value, and importance; something that could not be set aside; something that must be taken account of; something that would govern, determine and fix destiny, He prefaced the statement with: “Verily, verily, I say unto you”. It is the same word as is used here—“Verily”, “Amen”, “most truly”. I think one version puts it “Of most certain truth I say unto you...”. “These things saith the Amen.”—that is final, that is settled, that is something you cannot get past; it is presented to you as God’s last word.

Here then is what God presents in Christ. The Amen becomes personal. It is not a word now, not a saying, not an utterance, but a person. “These things saith the Amen.” It is the designation of the Person, the One Who in Himself is God’s final standard, the Verity, the faithful and true Witness. Christ comes before this church and, in effect, He says, I am the standard, there is nothing after Me, I have the final word, I represent the uttermost thought of God: you have to stand and measure yourself by Me. So you see the lie in the presence of the truth, the deception in the presence of the “verily”, all that is falling short of God’s thought in the presence of the full revelation of that thought in Christ. The way in which He introduces Himself to the Laodicean church is most significant. So the false is measured by the true. The one side of the balance is the Amen and the other side their state, with which they are so satisfied, which they think to be so perfect, so glorious. Over against the Amen, they go up in the balances and there is an exposure which calls for repentance, rectification and adjustment.

That forms the background of our consideration and of our spiritual exercise and ministry for all the Lord’s people at this time. It is seeing God’s truth as revealed in the person of His Son, as over against things as they are, which men may think to be all right while they are utterly contrary to that presentation. Ezekiel the prophet, in a day when the temple in Jerusalem was in ruins, was shown a spiritual temple measured out by a man with a golden measuring reed. We know how exact were all the measurements, how thorough was the work of measuring and presentation to the prophet; how the prophet was led in, led through, led round, led out, led up, set down, all under the government of this angel with the measuring reed. He was shown the outside, he was shown the inside, he was shown from above. From every angle, every aspect, every detail, this spiritual temple which was God’s mind exactly expressed, a temple which has never yet been on this earth in a literal form and expression, was shown to him. For Ezekiel it was a spiritual thing, and it remains that until now. Then the comment to Ezekiel was, “Son of man show the house to the house of Israel, that they may be ashamed...” (Ezek. 43:10). There is one temple on earth, another temple of spiritual revelation; one that has failed to answer to God’s thought, the other that is the expression of God’s thought; the other brought into view in the day when the one is destroyed.

That is not only prophecy but it is also a figure. Adam was the former temple, and the first Adam is in ruins as regards what God intended he should be, His temple—made, formed for His dwelling. In the day when the first Adam is in ruins, the last Adam is brought into view as God’s perfect temple in Whom He will dwell for ever, and where there will be no ruin. It is the temple and the tabernacle of God that is before us as the mind of God expressed in Christ.

Israel stands as a type for all ages and dispensations from the beginning onward, touching the whole thought of God. We have referred to Adam. Well, Israel sets forth in type what God’s thought was concerning Adam. The central and supreme thing in Israel’s life was the temple, and that had a backward aspect as well as a forward aspect, it looked right back to God’s intention at the beginning in the creation of man, and looks right on to God’s end when that intention is fully realised in Christ and His body, the church. When Adam was made it was the result of these counsels of the Godhead: “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (Gen. 1:26). All that that means we do not know, and we dare not speculate upon it, but this we can most certainly conclude that if God determines to make something in His Own image, after His Own likeness, it will be exceeding magnificent, it will be the expression of His thoughts which are always surpassing thoughts.

Even in this poor, marred, death-stricken creation we are able to discern and detect and trace the marks of God’s mind. We look upon the beauties—as they still remain in large measure—in this earth and there we see expressed or reflected the thought of God and we wonder, we marvel. We sit down before a simple flower and marvel. When God does something for Himself it bears the marks of what He is. David was right when he said: “...the house that is to be built for the Lord must be exceeding magnifical...” (1 Chron. 22:5). “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness...”. What was it for? It was to be a house of God, that God might dwell with men and be in them. He made man for that purpose, for His Own glory. Trace the various and numerous references to a house of God, a dwelling place of God, and you will always find that, sooner or later, you come upon the revelation of the glory of God in connection therewith. The house will, sooner or later, be filled with His glory. That is the great climax of this purpose.

Israel’s temple is but a type of Adam in intention, to be indwelt by God and filled with God’s glory; that in him and through him the glory of God should be displayed. If we have any doubt about it in the backward look, surely all those doubts are dispelled immediately we take the forward look. We take a look at the one Man as we see Him on the Mount of Transfiguration, and we see Him crowned with glory and honour. Then we are told that He is but the first, and that He is bringing many sons to glory, and that we are to be joined with Him, as members of His body with the same glory. There is no doubt whatever that Adam was created for this very purpose, and man is in existence to be God’s temple. The temple, then, is a type of man according to God’s purpose in a backward look.

The temple of Israel came to ruins. Why? We know one thing, and one thing only, which was responsible for it all. The Lord had always, from the time that He had chosen Israel, laid down with tremendous emphasis the law that there was to be no fellowship with the nations round about, because of the spiritual alliances of those nations with evil forces. It was not just a matter of being unfriendly, of being exclusive, having nothing to do with people. The Lord saw deeper than that. His dealings with the Egyptians were only a secondary thing. The primary thing was against all the gods of the Egyptians. So in Canaan it was the relationship of the nations with satanic forces which made it necessary for them to be blotted out. So the Lord’s people had to be kept clear and clean of all such fellowship and alliance because of the spiritual kingdom.

When Israel entered into relationships with the nations round about on a friendly basis, the glory of the Lord departed from the house of the Lord, the temple lost its glory and remained a mere shell for a time, while prophets pleaded, entreated, warned, and we get the long and terrible story of Jeremiah, Isaiah, Ezekiel and others, calling back to a break with these nations, a purging, a cleansing. That is why, when a remnant returned, Ezra and Nehemiah laboured so ardently to get out the mixture from the people in their merged relationships, because the principle was still there that any kind of spiritual alliance was spiritual fornication and God could have nothing to do with it. Israel’s persistence in complicity with those nations led to the ruin of their temple.

It is again a type with its backward aspect, God creating for His temple, He being in touch, in fellowship, and communion. Then there came complicity with Satan, resulting in the ruin of the temple, the ruin of that race and that man, personally and corporately.

Now you must remember that there is a sinister purpose behind all this. If God created man with the purpose of indwelling him (I am not saying that when Adam was created God indwelt him in the full sense as He indwells the believer now, as He indwelt Christ, but that was the object in view), the impressive thing is that through the ages the one dominating ambition of Satan has been to indwell men. It would be speculating to get back beyond the record of the Word of God. Some have done that and spoken about Satan losing his body, being cast out of his body, and becoming a disembodied spirit with one eternal longing to inhabit a body. That is deduction from certain things in the Word of God that demons are always seeking to possess bodies. There is no doubt about it that demon possession is a dominating objective of the forces of Satan, to get possession of a body. When the demons pleaded as they were being cast from the man that they should not be cast into mere air, but be allowed to enter into the bodies of the swine, it seems clear that a disembodied state for them evidently represented something full of terror, and Satan has as his main objective the entering in and possessing of a temple. He will enter in at last into the Antichrist.

You see there can be no such thing as a vacuum. If God is not in, Satan will be in sooner or later. You will remember the illustration given by the Lord Jesus of this matter, about the house from which the demon had been cast out, he wandered in solitary places and found no rest. He returned and found that the house was still empty, and he took seven other demons worse than himself and entered in. The disaster came because the house was not occupied already.

All this bears upon the point that Satan is represented as clamouring to possess, to enter in, to have a temple, a habitation. It is the counter of God. God made man in order to inhabit him. Satan is seeking to get God’s place in man. Complicity with Satan proved to be the ruin of man, the ruin of the temple, just as is illustrated in the Word in the case of Israel and their temple. Complicity with Satan behind the nations meant ruin of their temple.

What were the results? The results were that in the case of the temple of Israel God withdrew. The temple was overthrown, the enemy of Israel came into the place of power, and Israel and the vessels of the temple were possessed by the enemy and used for his glory and pleasure. It is all very clearly typical and illustrative. First of all when Adam brought about the ruin, God withdrew. Then the temple lay waste, broken. Then the enemy assumed the place of power over the temple and the man and all that which in man had been to the glory and service and pleasure of God was taken, and has ever since been used to the satisfaction of Satan. That is how we find man.

What was the governing law of all this, illustrated in Israel, actual in the case of man? The governing law was heart fellowship with God by faith.

If you get hold of that one thing you have hold of a key that opens almost everything, if not everything with which we have to do. It is HEART fellowship by faith. In Adam it was a question of his heart relationship with God, his heart fellowship with God by faith. Everything hung upon that, and everything still hangs upon that. We shall see what that means. We just mention it here and pass on for a moment, and then return to it presently.

Next we come to certain prophetic hints. The temple is in ruins, God withdrawn. But it is not left there. As we saw at the outset, when Israel’s temple was in ruins Ezekiel was shown a spiritual temple, perfect to a detail. It is a hint, and it is something more than a hint. In the day when the temple was broken down the word of the Lord by Haggai was: “Who is left among you that saw this house in her first glory? it not in your eyes as nothing? ...The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former...”. It is a prophetic hint. That house has never yet been in greater glory than Solomon’s, and whether there has to be a literal temple of this earth with glory greater than that of Solomon’s temple will not concern us very much, we have looked higher and we have seen the veil drawn away and the temple or tabernacle in heaven appearing and then coming down from heaven—“The tabernacle of God is with men.” Solomon’s temple is not going to drop out of heaven, or anything like that. It is a spiritual temple that comes out of heaven. The latter state is greater than the former. There are many of these prophetic hints.

In connection with what do they hint? Christ! They look on to Christ. Only Christ can transcend all that has been, and He does, because He fulfils all types. The last Adam is greater than the first, the last temple is greater than the former. All prophecy leads on to Him. So Christ comes into view when the temple is in ruins. Christ is presented as God’s eternal reality, not a type, nor a pattern, but a reality, of which these others were but patterns and types. He is seen as God’s temple: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up... But he spake of the temple of his body.” Adam, we are told, was a type “of him that was to come”, and if Adam was to be God’s temple it was only in type. The types have broken down. Christ is the reality; He is God’s temple. God dwelt in Him, and dwells in Him Who is the Verily of God, the Amen, the last Adam, the positive, the final, the conclusive.

Then, when you see Christ brought in as God’s eternal reality in the matter of God’s dwelling place, God’s temple, God’s habitation, you have to remember that as that temple is revealed here on earth it was governed by a number of laws. His life was governed by various spiritual laws. There are the laws of the House of God, the laws of the temple, and Christ being as God’s dwelling place was governed by these spiritual laws. It is those spiritual laws that we have to consider presently, but what we want to do at the moment is to see that Christ on earth sets forth what God’s temple is, and if we are going to be living stones, built into that temple, if we are to be built together, a habitation of God, what is true of Christ has got to be true of us as to the laws which govern the house of God. To put it in another way with Paul, there must be a conforming of us to the image of God’s Son, so that we, with Him, form one temple, one house of God, one habitation of God through the Spirit.

That brings us to one of these laws. We look back again to trace the inception of ruin. Where and how did ruin begin? It began before ever it touched this creation, it began before ever it came to Adam. We are allowed to look through and see what the inception of ruin was, and we gather from what the Word of God says that it was pride of heart: “For thou hast said in thine heart... I will exalt my throne above the stars... I will be like the Most High.” It was pride of heart which was the inception of ruin, in the case of Satan, and in the case of the first Adam the first personal and representative habitation of God. We need not trace it through again. We are familiar with the story. Whatever we have to say about Adam’s reaction to Satan’s temptation, it all resolves itself into a matter of pride of heart. What is pride? Or, to put the question in another way, How did that pride of heart express itself? What were its features? The features are exactly similar with Satan and Adam. When once pride of heart is there you have the same results: firstly, independence; secondly, possession; thirdly, self-centredness in the fullest sense; (that is, having things in oneself, no longer in another, no longer outside of oneself: I can! I know! I will! I have!); fourthly, self-exaltation “I will be”). There you have pride analysed at its very root: independence—no longer a dependent being; possession—possessiveness, taking hold, getting it into our own hands; self-centredness and self-exaltation. That is pride of heart. It is the explanation of ruin.

What were the immediate results? First, death. Satan became the very seat and centre of death and “death passed upon all men”, by complicity with him. We need not analyse death but merely state the fact. Secondly, darkness. What is spiritual darkness? Well, we have referred to Laodicea—blind, but not knowing it. That is deception, to be blind and not know it, and then to believe, to be convinced that you see, that you know. A deceived heart led him astray. How great that blindness is is seen by the universal repudiation of it. The most difficult thing is to get the natural man to believe that he is blind. Try any educated person today, try the modernist, try the scholar, try the religionist who is not born again, and your work will be of the hardest, if not the most hopeless to convince them that they do not know, that they never can know until they are born again. It is the most heartbreaking thing to try to get people to see. They think they do see, they cannot agree that they do not see. They simply get over the difficulty by saying: Oh, well, that is your interpretation of things, it is not my interpretation, it does not mean that I know less than you do. The very fact that blindness is repudiated by the natural man is the proof of its depth, of its strength, of its power. Its universal deception makes it necessary for a miracle to be wrought in order that they shall see. God’s attitude and Christ’s attitude to those of this world is that they have no eyes, they are born blind. Thirdly, bondage. Here again it will not be admitted, but there is bondage to the Devil. The fact of the bondage is manifested by a refusal to entertain any such suggestion, and therefore by refusing to take any course which would prove it. You and I have discovered how great that bondage is by seeking to escape it. We know because we have sought to escape. You never know how great the bondage is until you try to get out of it. The men of Israel did not know how great their bondage in Egypt was until they contemplated escape, and then they discovered that bondage was a greater thing than they ever imagined, and they would never have believed the tenacious grip it held. We should never have believed it until the prospect and promise of liberation came to us.

Then self-responsibility was the result; that is having to take responsibility for making your own way. After the ruin man had to earn his bread by the sweat of his brow. He had to make his own way, to take responsibility to live, and it was a terrific thing. Up to that point God had taken responsibility, provided everything. Life was a very simple thing. There was no anxious thought about wherewithal of any kind. But immediately afterwards he had to take responsibility for his own existence on the earth, and work by the sweat of his brow to keep body and soul together. These are the consequences of pride of heart, leading to ruin.

Of course at that point Christ comes in, the last Adam, with redemption and recovery. How? If pride of heart was the explanation of ruin, humility of heart is basic to revelation and recovery. This is a law of the house of God in which He will dwell. “I am meek and lowly in heart.”

I would like to introduce here a whole set of Scriptures. If pride of heart is independence then humility of heart is dependence, and when Christ is introduced as representing God’s temple, God’s dwelling place, then a law of God’s house, if it is to be built and maintained and not come to ruin, is the law of humility, and that is seen in the case of Christ from His birth. Everything about His birth speaks of meekness, lowliness, humility. His home and upbringing, His entering upon His ministry, His daily life, His manner, speak of humility. There is nothing self-important here, no pride of heart: “Behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is... lowly, and riding upon an ass....” That is how He came. What a life of utter dependence upon the Father He lived.

If ruin came by pride, and pride showed itself in possession, or possessiveness, then humility will be self-emptying, and self-emptiness. If pride of heart showed itself in self-centredness then humility is God-centredness. This is Christ, the house of God. If the issues of pride of heart were death, then humility is life. If pride of heart worked out in darkness then humility is light. Do you want to know? “The humble shall hear thereof, and be glad.” Meekness is essential to spiritual knowledge. If pride of heart led to bondage, then humility is liberty. If pride of heart meant that God refused to take responsibility for that man, and left him to take responsibility for himself, humility means that God assumes the responsibility again to look after those who humbly trust Him.

We will come back to this later but we have gone thus far in order to indicate what the Lord is trying to get us to see. God’s temple, God’s dwelling place governs history from the eternal counsels of God. Christ sets forth what that is, and in Him we see the laws which govern the habitation of God, and these laws are the opposite of those which obtained and governed in the leading to the ruin of the house of God. The first law is meekness, humility and all that that means.

There is a power about this divine humility which is capable of bringing the pride of Satan to the dust and destroying all the works of the Devil. “He was crucified through weakness.” But what that crucifixion wrought in the universe! “He humbled himself.” But to what effect! Satan has surely to rue the day that he participated in the humiliation of the Son of God. There is something mighty about humility and something terrible about pride.

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