Let’s review a bit. That will be a new and different phenomena for MBF, right? We are examining the body concept of the church as presented in the Scriptures. However, the body concept is not the only illustration used by the Holy Spirit to teach what the church really is. So as not to become lopsided in our understanding of the church and particularly the local church, we have tried to establish some of the total context around this teaching. I couldn’t think of a better person to go to for our information than the teachings of Christ. Plus, it gives me the opportunity to further the study of the Gospel of John. When you can be multitasking while using the same time and effort, you just can’t pass up such an opportunity.

The church is one aspect of the total eternal plan of God. God’s plan for the ages has never changed. However, it is a plan. Which of itself indicates progression, and it is moving towards a conclusion. There must be a starting point, and a finish line. Also, there must be progression from one of these terminal points to the other. I’m sure there are some high sounding theological terms for this process, but the terms do not change the reality of the facts. This truth of a progressive plan is not just a theological pipe dream, but a very well established fact in the Scriptures. Let’s review a few references to reestablish this truth within our minds. May I emphasize that these are only just a few of the Scriptural references to this plan and its progression.

Revelation 17:8 The beast that you saw was, and is not, and will ascend out of the bottomless pit and go to perdition. And those who dwell on the earth will marvel, whose names are not written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world, when they see the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.
1 Peter 1:18-20 knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. 20 He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you
Ephesians 1:3-4 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love,
Hebrews 9:24-26 For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; 25 not that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood of another-- 26 He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.
Hebrews 4:3 For we who have believed do enter that rest, as He has said: "So I swore in My wrath, they shall not enter My rest," although the works were finished from the foundation of the world.
Matthew 13:35 that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying: "I will open My mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world."
Matthew 25:34 Then the King will say to those on His right hand, 'Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
John 17:24 Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.

This listing does not even touch the surface of this vast Scriptural subject. Peter along with John make several references to this plan of the ages and its progression. Paul speaks of this progressive plan often. It is part of the very fiber of his presentation of doctrine for the church.

Ephesians 3:5-6 which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets: 6 that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel,
1 Peter 1:10-12 Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, 11 searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. 12 To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven-- things which angels desire to look into.

This is a subject that is not only nice to know, but is absolutely necessary if we are to understand the Word of God and the concept of the church. If we do not see the progression of God’s plan, we are in real danger of thinking that God keeps changing His mind and plan with every turn of human events. If we do not see that God’s plan is progressive and accumulative, we will be tempted to do as some, and say that because of man’s sin, God had to change His mind. That would certainly lessen our concept of the greatness of God. If this progression of God’s plan is not firmly established in our thinking, we might be tempted to think that God’s working with Israel is over, and the church has replaced Israel in the plan of God, and has become the New Testament Israel. That is just not the case! Israel, the Church and the Gentiles will all have a part and function throughout eternity. Not every Israelite or all the Gentiles will have an active place in eternity with God. A person’s place of existence in eternity depends on obedience and trust in God and His Word. Because each of these three groups continue into eternity, and each has a distinctive role in God’s plan in the ages past and through the ages to come, we must understand that instructions to and prophecies about each of these groups are given in the Scriptures. If we are to have a clear understanding of the Scriptures, we must properly separate and apply those Scriptures properly to each group.

The ministries of God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ are also progressive.

Genesis 2:2 And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done.

If we did not realize that the work (or works) of God is progressive, we might mistakenly think that His work was all done.

John 5:17 But Jesus answered them, "My Father has been working until now, and I have been working."

The work of creation, from which God rested, was only one phase of His progressive work for mankind. Even the earthly ministry of Christ was progressive.

John 4:34 Jesus said to them, "My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work.
John 17:4 I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do.

Certainly the glorification of God the Father on earth by Christ was a work of Christ. However, this glorification of God on earth was only one phase of Christ’s earthly work.

John 6:29 Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent." Here is another phase of the work of God, and it continues to this time and beyond.
John 19:30 So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, "It is finished!" And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.

Even the work of redemption is progressive. Our personal redemption will not be completed until we stand in the presence of God without our old sin nature, and without spot or wrinkle spiritually. Christ’s work was not finished with the provision of redemption. Christ must yet judge all things.

John 5:22-23 For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son, 23 "that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him. 2
2 Thessalonians 1:7-8 and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, 8 in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 15:24-28 Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. 25 For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. 26 The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. 27 For "He has put all things under His feet." But when He says "all things are put under Him," it is evident that He who put all things under Him is excepted. 28 Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.

We could go on and on, showing that the plan of God, and the revelation of God is progressive. When it comes to fellowship with, worship of and service to God, there have been progressive changes in the past and there will be further changes in the future. These changes have not come because man has become better, or that the eternal plan of God has changed, but the plan of God has progressed, and therefore the provision of God for man has made it possible for sinful humanity to have an ever closer and more intimate fellowship with God. Because of the Law and the sacrifices, which were a shadow or picture of the heavenly, God was able to tabernacle or dwell with Israel. The average Jew could not have personal fellowship with God in the temple. Only the high priest could go into the presence of God, and then only once a year. The entrance of the high priest into the Holy of Holies could not, in the truest sense, be called personal fellowship. He was there with the blood to seek forgiveness for his sins and the sins of the nation.

Because God’s eternal plan progressed with the incarnation, death, resurrection of Christ and the giving of the Holy Spirit to indwell each Believer, each Believer can now come boldly to the throne of grace.

Hebrews 4:14-16 Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

This throne room of God is no longer in a building set apart from the people by fences and curtains, but is in the body of every Believer.

1 Corinthians 6:18-20 Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's.

In the phase of God’s plan of worship through the Law, only a very small and narrow group of people could enter the fellowship hall of God:

In this present phase of God’s plan of worship, the church, the ones who can enter into the personal fellowship hall have been increased to whosoever will. Even this new, expanded, personal and intimate means of fellowship is not the final and ultimate means of worship.

1 Corinthians 13:12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.

All of these different aspects are referred to by Christ in His teaching. Such as:

Mark 11:17 Then He taught, saying to them, "Is it not written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations'? But you have made it a 'den of thieves.' "
John 4:21 Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father.
John 4:23-24 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father [only] in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. 24 "God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth."

Christ had much to say about true worship, and a good portion of it applies to the church. Let’s look at one more teaching of Christ concerning the temple past, present and future before we return to the subject of the body concept of the church. For this teaching, let’s go back to the cleansing of the temple, and the events that took place right after that cleansing.

John 2:15-22 When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers' money and overturned the tables. 16 And He said to those who sold doves, "Take these things away! Do not make My Father's house a house of merchandise!" 17 Then His disciples remembered that it was written, "Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up." 18 So the Jews answered and said to Him, "What sign do You show to us, since You do these things?" 19 Jesus answered and said to them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." 20 Then the Jews said, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?" 21 But He was speaking of the temple of His body. 22 Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said.

Single handed, Christ has disrupted the biggest business in Jerusalem. As far as that is concerned, it was the biggest business in all of Israel. Now you don’t do something like that without causing a reaction, to say the least. We have reactions of several groups of people recorded for us in Scripture. The disciples watched, and began to compare what they saw with Scripture. This was an indication of spiritual growth in their lives. The disciples remembered a passage in:

Psalms 69:9 Because zeal for Your house has eaten me up, And the reproaches of those who reproach You have fallen on me.

This was considered by the Jews as a reference to Messiah. The Jews freely admitted that they didn’t understand its meaning, but none the less, it was accepted by most as a messianic reference. One of the marks of Messiah would be His burning passion for the house of God. When the disciple saw this first cleansing, they realized that this was the action of the Anointed One of God, the Messiah of Israel.

The reactions by the Jews in general to the cleansing was amazing. Even the rulers of the Jews had a very subdued reaction. In the second cleansing, the rulers didn’t do anything outward, but they plotted how they could kill Him, privately. Back to our passage in John and the first cleansing. In chapter 3 of John, Nicodemus, one of the rulers, came to Jesus by night and made this admission...

John 3:1-2 There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, "Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him."

Nicodemus became a believer, and was one of those attending the body of Christ after His crucifixion. In John 2:18, the Jews who were at the feast and witnessed this event demanded of Christ a sign to show that He really had the authority to cleanse the temple. None seemed to question that the act demonstrated His claim to the authority of messiahship. These Jews wanted more proof that He was Who He said He was.

There had been others who had come along claiming to be Messiah, and had offered signs to establish their claims as Messiah with such declarations as; they could part the water of Jordan, bring blindness to the Roman soldiers, cause the city walls to crumble, etc. Of course, these impostors could not deliver on their promises. I would assume these Jew were expecting some such claim as these from Christ. For someone looking for a way not to believe, all the signs in the world would not convince them of the truth of Jesus’ claim to be the Son of God, the Messiah of Israel.

This fact is brought out in the account of the rich man and Lazarus. Both died and went to Hades in the heart of the earth, a place where souls went after death. This was true before the resurrection of Christ. I always dread using this portion because of the questions that arise. Quickly and simply put, Hades is in the heart of the earth, and before Christ’s resurrection was divided into two compartments:

A more complete study would be appropriate for some other time.

Luke 16:23-31 "And being in torments in Hades, he (the rich man) lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. 24 "Then he cried and said, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.' 25 "But Abraham said, 'Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented. 26 'And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.' 27 "Then he said, 'I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father's house, 28 'for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.' 29 "Abraham said to him, 'They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.' 30 "And he said, 'No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.' 31 "But he said to him, 'If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.' "

True belief in Christ does not come because of signs or spectacular events, but by believing what the Word of God says. Paul confirms this fact when he wrote that “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God”. When Christ was ask for more signs after the cleansing, He did not appease their human curiosity by doing some great thing. Instead, He told them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up."

John 2:19-22 Jesus answered and said to them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." 20 Then the Jews said, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?" 21 But He was speaking of the temple of His body. 22 Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said.

On another occasion the scribes and Pharisees had accused Him of working for and through Satan. At which time, Christ in His answer gave us another great teaching applicable to the church. He said “a house divided against itself cannot stand”. After Christ had answered their accusation concerning being of Satan, they too asked Him for a sign. Christ’s answer was basically the same as given at the cleansing. Christ adds a condemning statement concerning those who seek a sign instead of believing the Word of God.

Matthew 12:39-40But He answered and said to them, "An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 "For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

The statement of Christ concerning the destruction of the temple, and its resurrection made a lasting impression on the Jews and their leaders.

John 2:18-19 So the Jews answered and said to Him, "What sign do You show to us, since You do these things?" 19 Jesus answered and said to them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up."

It was one of the charges brought against Christ at His trial.

Matthew 26:59-61 Now the chief priests, the elders, and all the council sought false testimony against Jesus to put Him to death, 60 but found none. Even though many false witnesses came forward, they found none. But at last two false witnesses came forward 61 and said, "This fellow said, 'I am able to destroy the temple of God and to build it in three days.' "

The same charge was warmed over, and used against Stephen at his trial.

Acts 6:13-15 They also set up false witnesses who said, "This man does not cease to speak blasphemous words against this holy place and the law; 14 "for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs which Moses delivered to us." 15 And all who sat in the council, looking steadfastly at him, saw his face as the face of an angel.

These charges were based on some truth and some untruth. The charges were partly true, but something that is partly true is not the truth.

Christ in no way was interested in personally tearing down the temple. As a matter of fact, He told His disciples, just before His death, when the physical temple would be destroyed. We know from history that this destruction happen about 70 A.D. by the Roman soldiers under the command of Titus. Once again Mark gives us a little more information that helps in our understanding of this event.

Mark 14:58 "We heard Him say, 'I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands.' "

The Greek word for our English word destroy can also help us see the message Christ was giving.

destroy = (Greek) to loosen down (disintegrate); to overthrow completely; by implication to demolish; to halt for the night.

This is not the word for to break in pieces and is also used in:

1 John 3:8 He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.

Christ did not destroy the works of the devil by breaking them to pieces. Instead, He provided something better than rendered the Devil’s works of no value. In the same way, Christ rendered the temple, made with hands, of no value by providing something far better. That far better provision was the death and resurrection of Christ along with the giving of the Holy Spirit. Because of those events, God dwells within the body of each Believer, not a man made temple in Jerusalem. Our worship of God now takes place not in some place, or some building, or at some special time, but within our lives. Our worship can now take place wherever we are, and should be a constant transaction. Worship and fellowship should be a way of life.

The purpose of the temple or sanctuary was so God could dwell among mankind, and so mankind could have fellowship with God through a right relationship, and in holiness.

Exodus 25:8 And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.

Truly, through the earthly temple, God was able to dwell among the Israelites. God wanted far more than just to be in the same camp with His people. God wanted a relationship that would result in intimate fellowship with those He loved.

John 14:16-17 And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever, 17 "even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.

This dwelling with and in us involves more than just receiving the Holy Spirit.

Colossians 3:14-17 But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. 15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. 17 And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

By the progressive work of the Holy Spirit through Inspiration of the penning of the Scriptures, we can have the very Word of Christ dwelling in us. Through the ministry of the indwelling Holy Spirit, the indwelling Word can make it possible for us to continually draw on, or be partakers of God’s divine nature.

2 Peter 1:4 by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

Oh, there is much more to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit within the temples of our lives.

John 17:20-24 "I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; 21 "that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. 22 "And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: 23 "I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me. 24 "Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.

Wow! Through this indwelling, it is possible for us to become one with God the Father and Christ, as well as with the Holy Spirit. For those attending the Sunday night classes, notice the glory of God the Father was given to Christ, Who has given it to us. Sounds a little like the chain of glory. Right?

Not only can we become one with the Trinity, v.23 says that Christ and God the Father are also in our temple along with the Holy Spirit. My believing friend, you are walking around in quite a temple, and the inhabitants of that temple are awesome beyond imagination. Don’t lose the opportunity to fellowship with and worship those Who are dwelling in your temple.

Matthew 18:20 "For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them."

When two or more of these human temples of the Holy Spirit get together in the name of Christ, Christ is right there in the midst of them in a special way, beyond the understanding and imagination of mankind. Don’t miss those times of temple meetings, for if you do, you have missed a very special presence of the person of Christ.

Hebrews 10:23-25 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.
© Clyde White, Austin TX, 1998