Zechariah and 1 Peter| A Comparative Study- The Messianic Temple
The Old Testament repeatedly foretold the building of the Messianic Temple when the Kingdom of Messiah would be established. Passages such as Isaiah 2:2f anticipated that Temple. Likewise, Ezekiel 40f is one of the most famous predictions of the kingdom Temple under Messiah. A literal view of that Temple has led many Dispensationalists to posit a future restoration of a blood line priesthood, animal sacrifices, and basically, the entire cultus of the sacrificial system. We are told that there must in fact be a literal, future temple rebuilt in Jerusalem.
The question of the nature of the Messianic Temple is, however, not as simple as our Dispensational friends suggest. Remember that Peter says that the OT prophets did not understand either the time– or the manner– of what it was they were predicting! This is very challenging, because did not those OT prophets know what a “Temple” was? They had, in Zechariah’s day, a rebuilt temple, of stone, cedar, etc.. right there in front of them. And yet, amazingly, Zechariah foretold another temple that was future to him! And, this temple would be built by Messiah– the Branch. And when Messiah built that Temple, he would sit as both King and Priest on that throne.
The Messianic Temple — Radically Different!
Note that last bit of information. How could Messiah sit on a literal throne in literal Jerusalem, and be both priest and king?
This prophecy contains within it an implicit prediction of radical changes. After all, as Hebrews 7:14 takes note, Jesus is of the tribe of Judah “concerning which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning the priesthood.” The problem here is that the Dispensational paradigm insists that the Levitical priesthood, and the specific Zadokite aspect of that Levitical family, is still in effect in the Millennial Temple. Well, if the Levitical priesthood is still in effect, then according to Hebrews 8:4-5, Jesus could not be a priest on earth, since the Levitical priesthood would prevent it!
It will not do for the Dispensationalists to say that the Mosaic Law is abolished, but that the Levitical priesthood is still binding in the Millennium. This is nothing but sophistry. Very clearly, the vision of the Temple in Ezekiel– taken literally– demands the re-establishment of Torah and the entire Mosaic Law and Cultus. But, this being true, Christ can never be a priest on earth! If the Levitical priesthood is valid, Christ cannot be priest on earth. It is that simple– and devastating for the Dispensational view of a Millennial Messianic Temple.
But, notice how Peter interprets those OT prophecies of the Messianic Temple, keeping in mind that Peter is emphatic that his eschatological hope was what was promised in the OT prophets.
Notice 1 Peter 2:4-10:
“Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture,
“Behold, I lay in Zion A chief cornerstone, elect, precious, And he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.” Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone,” and, “A stone of stumbling And a rock of offense.” They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed. But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.”
While a book could be written about these verses, I will be brief. (But, see my book, The Elements Shall Melt With Fervent Heat, for a fascinating and important study of Peter’s citation of the OT prophecies of the Rejected Stone becoming the corner stone of the temple).
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He said the OT prophets did not know either the time or the manner of the things they foretold.
He said that through the Spirit, it was being revealed that those OT prophets spoke of Christ, his suffering, and the glory to follow– and that they spoke of his, Peter’s day.
Then, and this is what is so remarkable and important, Peter cites several OT prophecies of the Messianic Temple: Isaiah 28; Isaiah 8, Psalms 118, and he says Christ was the Rejected Stone foretold by those prophecies. But what kind of stone? The Chief Cornerstone of the Messianic Temple!
Now, you just have to catch the power of this. Dispensationalists claim that the OT did not, in any passage, predict the establishment of the church, period!
Dwight Pentecost, who wrote a massive tome, Things to Come, widely considered to be one of the most definitive apologies for Dispensationalism, said this: “The church itself was the mystery. ‘The fact that God was going to form Jews and Gentiles alike in one body was never revealed in the Old Testament and forms the mystery of which Paul speaks in Ephesians 3:1-7; Romans 16:25-27; Colossians 1:26-29. This whole mystery program was not revealed until after the rejection of Christ by Israel.” … “The church is manifestly an interruption of God’s program for Israel, which was not brought into being until Israel’s rejection of the offer of the kingdom. It must logically follow that his mystery program must itself be brought to conclusion before God can resume His dealing with the nation of Israel. The mystery program, which was so distinct in its inception, will certainly be separate at its conclusion. This program must be concluded before God resumes and culminates His program for Israel. This mystery concept of the church makes a pre-tribulational rapture a necessity.” (Dwight Pentecost– Things to Come, (Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1980)201.
Well, if the OT never predicted the events spoken of in the NT regarding the body of Christ, then why was Peter affirming in the clearest manner that he was writing about the fulfillment of God’s Old Covenant promises made to Israel, about the Messianic Temple– in his discussion of the Temple of the body of Christ?
Peter’s Inspired Understanding of the Messianic Temple
Was Peter abusing, distorting and perverting the OT prophecies? If so, then we should pay no attention to what he had to say. Yet, Peter said– to reiterate– that it was through the Holy Spirit sent by the Father that he was interpreting what those OT prophets said.
Of course, the key thing to note here is that Peter undeniably interpreted those OT prophecies of the Messianic Temple spiritually! Jesus was the “living” stone. The Living Corner Stone of the spiritual house, being built up by “living stones,” and those living stones of that spiritual house were now constituting a new priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices!
In this regard, note what Hebrews 8:1-2 says:
“Now this is the main point of the things we are saying: We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man.”
It is manifestly obvious that the author was not speaking of a literal temple that had been constructed, and over which Christ as the High Priest was ministering. Christ was in the heavenlies, ministering as a priest over the order of Melchisedec, and he was ministering in the “true” tabernacle, which– just as Zechariah had foretold, he, as Lord, had constructed.
The use of the word “true” in Hebrews does not suggest that the Old Temple was false. Rather, it demonstrates the point we are making that the Old Covenant Temple was a type and shadow of the Temple of Christ, the fulfillment of the typological significance of that old Temple.
Greg Beale touches on this by noting that Hebrews refers to the heavenly tabernacle as ‘true’ because it is the fulfillment, not only of direct prophecies of the eschatological temple, but, of everything the Old Testament tabernacle and temples foreshadowed.
He says the OT tabernacle was not “true” because it was temporary, but that the church, as the New Temple, “cannot be changed, nor can it ever pass away.”… “The former temple was not the ‘true one’ because it was a mere shadow of the one to come but because it would cease to exist. To believe that a physical temple will be built after the eschatological one has been inaugurated would be to return to the former ‘shadowy’ stage of temple existence. Once the end-time, eternal temple that corresponds to the reality of the heavenly one comes, it would be a strange reversal for God to commend a return to the shadows. To believe that Israel’s temple or one rebuilt by human hands would last forever is a false view because it mistakes the symbolic temple (Hebrews 9:8-10) for the real one (Hebrews 9:11).” (Greg Beale, The Temple and The Church’s Ministry, (Intervarsity Press, Downers Grove, Ill. 2004)296.
How many times does Peter have to say that those living Christians were the spiritual house, living stones, spiritual priesthood, and spiritual temple– in fulfillment of those OT prophets before we accept the fact that the Messianic Temple foretold by those prophecies was never intended to be a literal, physical temple, but, the spiritual body of Christ?
Peter knew that the Old Covenant Temple was a mere type and shadow of the true temple. That Old Covenant Temple was never the “true” one, i.e. it was never the determinative purpose of God. It pointed forward to the better, spiritual things of Christ. (See Hebrews 9:23-10:1-2). Failure to grasp this central fact lies at the root of the Dispensational error. Be sure to get a copy of my book, Like Father Like Son, On Clouds of Glory, for an in-depth study of the typological nature of Israel herself. This is critically important.
So, Zechariah foretold the building of the Messianic Temple in the Kingdom. His prediction, by the very nature of the case, demanded that the Messianic Temple “cultus” would be radically altered. And Peter, inspired by the Spirit, interprets the Old Covenant promises of the Messianic Temple as predictions of the spiritual temple of Christ.
This completely falsifies the woodenly literalistic hermeneutic of Dispensationalism. It shows us that Zechariah’s prophecy– as well as all of the other predictions of the Messianic Temple, were being fulfilled in the first century. We are not looking for a future Messianic Temple.