The Altar or the Gift


Recently I have been in a discussion with someone about the end times. Specifically, the person I was talking to says he believes the temple in Jerusalem will never be rebuilt because it contradicts scripture. After all, we live under grace now, and animal sacrifices are no longer necessary. They were a type and shadow of what was coming in the future when Jesus became the only sacrifice we needed.

God began speaking to me later and was saying that He never saw Herod’s temple the way people think God saw that temple. What was the one thing in the temple Solomon built that was indispensable? What essentially was the temple built around? It was the Ark of the Covenant. Without the Ark, the temple lost its meaning. To cover the sins of the Jewish nation, the blood of a sacrificed animal had to be sprinkled on the Ark. Without the Ark, God could still see sin tainting the Jewish people. That essentially meant He could not bless them and only curses followed them.

What was missing in the temple Herod built? It was the Ark of the Covenant. Without the Ark, the temple had little significance. Jesus and Paul certainly thought the temple was important but perhaps in only a symbolic way. This was the area where Abraham took Isaac to sacrifice him. This is also the area where Jacob dreamed about the ladder that ascended to heaven. Certainly this location was important to Jesus. This was where Solomon’s temple stood and where the Ark was located for hundreds of years. Paul certainly knew he did not have to go through the rituals the Jews went through at the temple to purify themselves. Yet, Paul did go through those rituals so he could continue to be a witness to those who were not yet saved. The temple was not so important to him then in this respect, because he knew that without the temple, he was still saved.

In Matthew 23:19, Jesus asked, “You fools and blind ones: which is greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifies the gift?” The answer was the altar. What does the temple signify? It signifies our flesh and the worldly works of man which will be destroyed at the Judgment Seat of Christ for those who have been saved by grace. Our flesh houses our inner man. Paul said we would all stand before this judgment seat. In 1 Corinthians 3:13-15 it says, “Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abides which he has built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he, himself, shall be saved; yet so as by fire.” Whether the temple stands there or not in Jerusalem, it only represents the sinful outward deeds of man that will be burned in the fire. Herod’s temple was burned with fire by the Romans not many years after Jesus’ resurrection. The temple can be rebuilt, but it means nothing of significance in God’s plan for each of us.

What did the altar (Ark) signify? It signifies the heart of a man repenting of his sins and coming into a right relationship with the Lord. This was the heart of the temple. This is where man meets God. So, if the Jews do manage to build a new temple, it will not be something God has called on them to do. It will simply be man making the prophecies of the Bible become reality before our eyes. We were given a new temple when Christ rose from the dead and ascended to heaven. God resides in us. We are the real new temple regardless of what the Jews do. They can reinstitute animal sacrifices if they want, but there is no Ark of the Covenant there because God no longer needs it. Think on these things.

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