The House Of God In The Old Testament The first house of God in the Bible is the one Jacob saw when “he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it ... And he was afraid, and said, ‘How awesome is this place! This is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven’” (Gen. 28:12,17 KJV). Jacob called this place Bethel, which means “the house of God.” Many years passed after that and Jacob’s descendants multiplied in Egypt where they were slaves to Pharaoh, very far from Bethel. There they worshiped the gods of Egypt, but God did not forget His promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He brought them out of Egypt after redeeming them by the blood of the Passover Lamb (Ex. 12). As His own redeemed and delivered people, He wanted to dwell among them, and therefore told Moses, “Let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them” (Ex. 25:8).
God, as the Lord of His own house, gave minute details concerning the house that they were to build. And they did build it in every detail “as the Lord commanded Moses.” This expression is repeated several times in the last two chapters of Exodus, and is of such great and obvious importance that it needs our serious attention. “And Moses did look upon all the work, and behold, they had done it as the LORD had commanded, even so had they done it; and Moses blessed them” (Ex. 39:43).
Because everything was made according to divine instructions, “a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter into the tent of the congregation, because the cloud abode thereon, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle” (Ex. 40:34-35). All this has obvious and important lessons for us.
Many years passed, and finally in King Solomon’s time the temple was built in Jerusalem, and became the house of the Lord. It also had to be built exactly according to the divine pattern. “And it came to pass … that the cloud filled the house of the LORD, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud; for the glory of the LORD had filled the house of the LORD” (1 Ki. 8:10-11).
Jehovah promised that His eyes will be open to this house as long as His people obeyed Him. But sad to say the children of Israel disobeyed, and did all kinds of evil, even worshiping the gods of the heathen. As a result, Ezekiel described how the glory of the Lord departed from the temple (Exek. 10:18), and the temple itself was destroyed by the Babylonian army (2 Ki. 25:8-21).
The House Of God In The Time Of Christ
Although Solomon’s temple was rebuilt by Zerubbabel, we do not read that the glory of the Lord visited this earth again until that wonderful night in which Christ was born: “And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, an angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them, and they were very much afraid. And the angel said unto them, “Fear not; for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which will be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Lk. 2:8-11). And in this Savior the fullness of the Godhead was pleased to dwell (Col. 1:19; 2:9).
But what about the beautiful temple that was present then, which took 40 years to construct in the days of King Herod? Christ described it as a “den of thieves” (Mt. 21:13), and prophesied of its total destruction (Mt. 24:1-2). During the life of Jesus, it was in Him that God was present on this earth. His body was the true Temple of God. Christ referred to this fact when He said to the Jews, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (Jn. 2:19).
The House Of God In This Age
Before the Lord Jesus went to the Cross, He asked His disciples, “‘Who say ye that I am?’ And Simon Peter answered and said, ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God’” (Mt. 16:15-16). It was then that Christ made His great announcement recorded in Matthew 16:18 – “Upon this rock I will build My church” – indicating that the Church was still a future thing. Ten days after the Lord ascended to heaven, 50 days after His resurrection, on the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came down from heaven and the believers were filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-4). On that day about three thousand souls were saved: “And the Lord added to the Church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:47).
The day of Pentecost was the birthday of the Church, the day on which the Holy Spirit came down and the Church was established as the House of God and the temple of the Holy Spirit. Solomon’s temple was built with costly stones, but the true house of God, the Church, is built with living stones: “Ye also, as living stones are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 2:5). This is in contrast with the sacrifices that were offered in the house made of mere stones. That the Church is the house of God is also referred to in Ephesians 2:20- 22, where we are described as a holy temple in the Lord, and that we are being built together for a habitation of God in the Spirit.
The truth that the Church is the house of God has several important practical implications.
First, the house of a holy God must be holy: “Holiness becometh Thine house, O LORD, forever” (Ps. 93:5).
Second, God’s house must reveal His greatness and His glory: “And in His temple doth everyone speak of His glory” (Ps. 29:9). We are to proclaim “the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:9). Another translation says we are to “show forth the excellencies of Him” (JND). And the Amplified Bible says “that you may set forth the wonderful deeds and display the virtues and perfections of Him who called you.”
Third, order in the house of God should be according to divine instructions and not according to human preferences. We saw this earlier in relation to the tabernacle and the temple (Ex. 39; 1 Ki. 8:10-11).
Fourth, as we saw already in 1 Peter 2:5, we, the Church, as “a spiritual house and an holy priesthood,” are to “offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.” In the New Testament we learn of at least three kinds of spiritual sacrifices: the sacrifices of praise, of giving and of ourselves.
The Sacrifice Of Praise: The writer of Hebrews wrote, “By Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name” (Heb. 13:15). And David said, “His praise shall continually be in my mouth” (Ps. 34:1). How much more should we, to whom so much has been revealed, joyfully make this sacrifice!
The Sacrifices Of Giving: “But to do good and to share, forget not; for with such sacrifices God is well pleased” (Heb. 13:16). This is emphasized in many other passages in the New Testament. We are saved by grace and not by our works, yet we are “created in Christ Jesus for good works” (Eph. 2:10). Christ gave Himself for us, so that we would be “His own special people, zealous for good works” (Ti. 2:14). This has been and should continue to be part of the history of the Church.
The Sacrifice Of Ourselves: In Romans 12:1 we read of another spiritual sacrifice: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” To present our bodies means to offer all our activities, our abilities and our faculties to Him. This sacrifice controls my eyes, my ears and my tongue – what I look at, what I listen to and what I say. It also means my hands and my feet – what I do and where I go. In other words, my whole being. To be the house of God is a great privilege, with serious responsibilities.
A Final Comment
Christendom is described in the dictionary as “all those collectively who profess the Christian faith.” In the Bible it is referred to as a “great house” (2 Tim. 2:20), but it is not the house of God. It includes all who are called Christians whether they are true believers or not. Therefore it is described as having in it “vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; some to honor, and some to dishonor.”
When Christ takes the true believers to heaven at the Rapture, described in 1 Thessalonians 4:14- 17, this “great house” will become “the habitation of demons, a prison of every foul spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hateful bird” (Rev. 18:2). But the true Church which is also the Bride of Christ (Eph. 5:23-29; Rev. 19:7-8; 21:9) will be with Him in heaven forever. Hallelujah!
By Anise Behnam
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org