\”“continued from part 2
This is the last part of our study of the ramifications that Ephesians 2 has for dispensationalism. The Gentiles are full-fledged members of “the commonwealth of Israel” and they are part of the “one new man” that God has made. As such, they partake in the “covenants of promise”. Galatians 3 declares they are “sons of Abraham”, “blessed along with Abraham”, and as they are “Christ’s” they are also “Abraham’s offspring”.
Now we come to the last element of Eph. 2 which is important for how we come to terms with classic dispensationalism’s teaching concerning Israel being totally distinct from the church. Again, I’m quoting from Dr. Kenneth Gentry on this point, from his article on Ephesians and Dispensatinalism.
The rebuilt temple is the Church of Jesus Christ.
The future rebuilt temple is a distinctive feature of dispensationalism. The Dictionary of Premillennial Theology (Kregel, 1996; hereinafter, DPT) states that:
\”The prophecy of a future Jewish temple in Jerusalem . . . is part of the greater restoration promise made to national Israel. This promise, made at the close of the first temple period (cf. Isa. 1:24\”“2:4; 4:2\”“6; 11:1\”“12:6; 25\”“27; 32; 34\”“35; 40\”“66; Jer. 30\”“33; Ezek. 36\”“48; Amos 9:11\”“15; Joel 2:28\”“3:21; Micah 4:\”“5; 7:11\”“20; Zeph. 3:9\”“20), made again by the prophets who prophesied after the return from captivity (cf. \”Dan. 9\”“12; Hag. 2:5\”“9; Zech. 8\”“14; Mal. 3\”“4), and reaffirmed in the New Testament (cf. Acts 3:19\”“26; Rom. 11:1\”“32) contained inseparably linked elements of fulfillment. . .\” (DPT 404).
Paul is provides a spiritual interpretation of the promise of a rebuilt temple. In Ephesians 2:19\”“22 he states:
\”So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together is growing into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.\”
The Apostle certainly believes in a rebuilt temple, but not one built of stone. He sees \”the whole building\”as currently in his day already \”being fitted together\” and \”growing into a holy temple in the Lord.\”He allows this despite the fact that the earthly temple is still standing as he writes. And despite the fact that the millennium still lies off in the distance (already almost 2000 years distant, at least).
To make matters worse, Paul sees the rebuilt temple in spiritual terms because it is \”built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets\” with \”Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone.\” And the current and ongoing building process involves Christians themselves as the building stones for \”you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.\”
This is why Jesus could inform the Samaritan woman: \”Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, shall you worship the Father. . . But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers\” (John 4:21, 23). And Jesus presents this \”coming\” hour as a permanent, final reality not to be withdrawn as a new order of localized, physical temple worship is re-instituted.
This is no stray statement by Paul: he returns to this theme time-and-again. We read of his conception of the spiritual temple in the following verses:
\”Do you not know that you are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are.\” (1 Cor 3:16\”“17)
\”Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?\” (1 Cor 6:19)
\”What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, \”˜I will Dwell in them and walk among them; And I will be their God, and they shall be My people\’\” (2 Cor 6:16).
The third sample in 2 Corinthians 6:16 is important because it specially applies Old Testament prophecy to the New Testament spiritual temple. Notice how Paul argues: \”We are the temple of the living; just as God said, \”˜I will Dwell in them and walk among them; And I will be their God, and they shall be My people.\’\” The Old Testament backdrop to this \”just as God said\” statement is Ezekiel 37:27: \”My dwelling place also will be with them; and I will be their God, and they will be My people.\”
What is remarkable about all of this is that this Paul takes this statement from Ezekiel\’s prophecy of Israel\’s dry bones coming back to life. Thus, Paul commits two hermeneutic sins: (1) he applies a prophecy regarding Israel to the church and (2) he spiritualizes God\’s prophetic dwelling, applying it to God\’s spiritual indwelling his people, rather than God\’s building a new temple.
I would add that this idea of the church being the temple of God is also taught clearly in 1 Pet. 2. Believers are “living stones… being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (2:5b).
Also, on the “dwelling place of God” theme, I would stress this is a recurring thread from Gen. 22 all the way through to Rev. 21. God promises to dwell with His people. He will be our God, and we will be His people. This was promised to Abraham and we share in that promise, as believers in Christ- the true “seed” of Abraham.
For me, this kind of teaching was not brought home to me as a dispensationalist. Some do stress this as the present church-age reality, but then claim God will go back to the way things were before. Some even stress another physical temple will be made and physical sacrifices offered once more after the rapture occurs to remove the church prior to the tribulation period. This does not seem to do justice to Eph. 2′s teaching in my understanding. Nor does it square with Hebrews and 1 Peter. This passage clearly teaches God has done something new in breaking down this wall of separation, why would He then later build it back up?
Before I conclude, let me stress that good people will disagree with my conclusions here. This side of glory, we won’t ever completely agree on everything. May God grant us grace to comprehend more fully the glories of His Word and the wonders of His grace.