God's Dwelling Place - Part 1
John B. D. Page, Harrow
Early in Exodus, we read of God saying, “I am come down to deliver (the children of Israel) out of the hand of the Egyptians”, Exod. 3. 8. Later, Mount Sinai was enveloped with cloud and fire, and, upon the mount, God said to Moses, “let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them”, 25. 8. Linking together these two statements we have the twofold thought of “deliverance” and “dwelling”. In them, we have the theme of the book of Exodus, which alternatively can be expressed as (i) “Redemption”, the message of chapters 1-24 in which the Israelites’ deliverance from Egyptian bondage is recorded, and (ii) “Habitation”, the key-thought of chapters 25-40, which describe in detail the tabernacle. These two truths are mentioned together in Exodus 29. 46, and their order is important. God could not dwell among an unredeemed people. First, redemption, and then habitation, is the divine order found not only in the book of Exodus, but throughout the Scriptures. As we pursue the subject further, we shall concentrate upon the latter, namely, habitation.
At the consecration of the temple, Solomon opened his prayer with the words, “I have built an house of habitation for thee, and a place for thy dwelling for ever”, 2 Chron. 6. 2. Solomon expressed the purpose of the temple - an habitation for the Lord.
Let us relate the thought of habitation to (1) Christ; (2) believers; (3) the local assembly, and the Church; (4) the nation of Israel; and (5) the new universe. In so doing, we shall note the word “dwell”, or its equivalent, in the scriptures considered.
1. God in Christ.
“Great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh”, 1 Tim. 3. 16. The incarnation of Christ is indeed wonderful; it is one of the great mysteries unfolded by Paul. Of the incarnation, John says, “the Word became flesh and dwelt (or, tabernacled) among us”, John 1. 14 R.V., which appears to be an allusion to Exodus 25. 8, “that I may dwell (or, tabernacle) among them”. Thus, the tabernacle is used metaphorically of the Son of God partaking of “flesh and blood”, sin apart, Heb. 2. 14. “The Word”, a title used by John of the Lord Jesus, is eternal in being and divine in nature, John 1. 1, and He took upon Himself the real and complete nature of man. This union of Godhead with manhood was not a temporary measure, but such union remains indissoluble for ever.
The Lord Jesus refers to the temple figuratively of Himself, when He said to the Jews in reply to their request for a sign, “Destroy this temple (or, sanctuary, R.V. marg.), and in three days I will raise it up”. John explains that “he spake of the temple (or, sanctuary, R.V. marg.) of his body”, John 2. 19-22. This is an appropriate metaphor, for in His body, the Shekinah, the glory of the Lord, abode as in the sanctuary of old. Voluntarily, the Lord Jesus would allow the Jews to “destroy . . . the temple of his body”, signifying His impending death. But by saying “I will raise it up”, He foretells His own part in His resurrection. Thus, the Lord Jesus made it clear that even death would not mean the end of His Manhood.
Quoting the Psalmist, Peter said: “. . . neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption”, Acts 2. 27. In the natural order of things, corruption follows death, but it was not so with the Lord Jesus. He was raised from the dead with the “body of his glory”, Phil. 3. 21 R.V., with which He ascended into heaven, and from whence we look for Him to come again. His body is now radiant with divine glory, of which the disciples had a glimpse when, upon the mount, He was transfigured before them.
God no longer dwells in a tabernacle or temple made with hands, for Paul, writing of the ascended and glorified Christ, says, “in him dwelleth (permanently, not temporarily, is the underlying thought) all the fulness of the Godhead bodily”, that is, in bodily form, Col. 2. 9. As W. E. Vine says, “Not the mere rays of divine glory adorned Him for a season, but the fulness of absolute Godhead dwells in the Son Incarnate”.
2. God Indwelling the Believer.
In 1 Corinthians 6. 12-20, Paul writes about the believer’s body, condemning its improper use and commending its proper use according to the Lord’s claim upon it. This was necessary, because, at Corinth, the morals of its citizens were low. Apparently, fornication was prevalent, and public opinion did not regard it with disfavour. This laxity of moral standards had affected believers in the assembly there.
Unhesitatingly, Paul says, “the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body”, v. 13. The purpose of the body is not for indulging in gross immorality. The body of the believer is “for the Lord”, an object for His use.
The climax is in verses 19 and 20, where Paul links together the two grand truths of (i) redemption - “ye are bought with a price”; and (ii) habitation - “your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost”. The word “temple” is that used by our Lord in John 2. 19-21, not meaning the whole temple buildings, but the inner sanctuary. Think of it! A believer’s body is the Holy of Holies indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Knowing this, it is important how we use our bodies.
The Holy of Holies in the temple was not only the place where God dwelt, but also where His glory was manifested. “Therefore”, says Paul, “glorify God in your body”. It should be not merely a duty but an expression of devotion to the Lord to glorify Him in our bodies. Having learned that the body is a sanctuary of God, where God dwells and His glory is manifested, let each remember the dignity of this truth, and guard and use his body accordingly.
To be concluded.