The Messianic Temple– A Temple Not Made With Hands!

“He Shall Destroy This Temple Made With Hands,
and Build Another Not Made With Hands”
Mark 14:58

Don K. Preston D. Div.

As Jesus stood on trial, he was accused of many things. Some of the accusations were true, some were not. One of the true accusations is found above, and has profound implications for theology and eschatology today.

We hear an awful lot today about the rebuilding of the temple. We are told that the Jews and rabbis in Jerusalem are gathering materials and training men to serve as priests in the supposedly imminent rebuilt temple. Zionists like John Hagee, Hal Lindsay, Jack Van Impe and a host of others raise millions of dollars every year to support Israel and the efforts to rebuild the temple. I am currently writing a book that will dispel the idea that there is to be a literal rebuilt temple in Jerusalem. There is no evidence at all for such a future event!

The Old Testament certainly foretold the building of the Messianic Temple. See Isaiah 2:2f for instance, where “the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established.” This is a direct reference to the Messianic Temple. In Zechariah 6:12-13 the prophet foretold the coming of “The Branch” who would build the temple of the Lord and sit on the throne as king and priest.

What kind of temple did these prophecies– and more– have in mind? Was it a physical edifice in Jerusalem? Is it to be a literal building sitting again on its geographical location on the temple mount, in spite of the fact that the Moslem Dome of the Rock now sits too close to that original location as to allow such a thing? (The idea that there is room on that temple mount for both buildings is simply an attempt to allow for the desired temple. Any attempt to build a temple that close to the Moslem Dome would result in WW III. Lamentably, some Zionists openly call for such a war, insisting it is necessary for the rebuilding of the temple!).

What those who anticipate such a temple are overlooking is that the Bible is very clear that the Messianic Temple would not be a physical building at all! Notice the accusation– which was true– against Jesus: he will build another (temple) not made with hands.” This accusation demands a bit of attention.

In the OT prophecies of the Messianic Temple we are told that the foundation for that temple would be a living person, not a stone of granite or marble! In Isaiah 28, which contains the prediction of the laying of the foundation stone, we are told that those who would trust in it would not be ashamed.  Now, in stark contrast to the OT condemnation of those who put their trust in the physical temple (see Jeremiah 7 especially) Isaiah was saying that the Messianic Temple was to be believed in and trusted.

What is so significant about this of course is that the NT writers unequivocally say that Christ is that anticipated foundation stone! Peter affirms this in no uncertain terms in 1 Peter 2:6f. See also Acts 4:11f where Peter applies the prophecy of Psalms 118:22, the prophecy of the rejected stone becoming the chief corner stone of the temple, directly to Jesus and his rejection by the Jewish leaders.

So, there was to be a Messianic Temple for sure. However, that Temple would be a living temple, built on a living foundation stone! And there is more to be found in Mark 14:58.

Notice the reference to the temple “not made with hands.” As Timothy Gray notes: “The word ‘made with hands’ is found 14 times in the LXX, and in every case it describes idols. This observation is very consequential, for the description of the Jerusalem temple ‘as made with hands’ is not simply saying that the temple is of this world– man made– but that it has become an idol” (Timothy Gray, The Temple in Mark, (Grand Rapids, Baker Academic, 2008)175).

This background would not have been lost on Jesus’ audience and even the Sanhedrin as they heard the accusation. Furthermore, in the NT we find a constant contrast between the OT cultus, and the things that identified Israel as God’s people, and the things of Christ as things not made with hands.

Stephen lost his life for telling the Jews– as he stood in their (now idolatrous) temple “The Most High does not dwell in temples made with hands” (Acts 7:48). All he did was quote their own scriptures to them that the temple could not be God’s dwelling place in the kingdom, and they killed him for it!

Paul contrasted the circumcision made with hands– circumcision being one of the key markers of the children of God– in contrast to the circumcision of Christ, the circumcision not made with hands (Colossians 2:11-12).

Hebrews speaks of the “true tabernacle” over which Jesus ministers as high priest, and says it is the “true tabernacle” the one that God pitched and not man. Christ’s New Covenant temple is not made with hands. He is the living foundation stone of the true tabernacle. Then, the Hebrews author says that the Old Covenant Temple was “this creation” but, the New Covenant, Messianic Temple which is “greater and more perfect” than the Old, “is not of this creation” (Hebrews 9:11).

I would kindly suggest that those who anticipate a future physical edifice give careful thought to these words.
Christ’s New Covenant Temple is “greater and more perfect” than the magnificent Herodian Temple.
Christ’s Messianic Temple is “true” as opposed to the old.
It is greater and more perfect.
It is “not  of this creation.
Could any future, physical edifice, made with hands ever surpass, or even equal, the true tabernacle that Christ has already built upon himself as the chief-cornerstone?

All of the prognostications about a future Messianic Temple are groundless and based on a misunderstanding of what the Bible actually foretold. Jesus’ accusers got it right! Jesus said he was going to destroy the old temple made with hands (and he did!), and build another temple not made with hands. He has kept his word, and now “The tabernacle of God is with man!” (Revelation 21:3-4).