"Destroy this Temple," Jesus said, "and in three days I will build it again." The people who heard him thought that he was talking about the Temple in Jerusalem. But the Temple he had spoken of was his body.
The Temple was no ordinary building. It was the place where sacrifices were offered, the place where atonement was made. There the priests interceded for the people. Every day, the people all across the land directed their prayers to God towards the Temple. Within the Temple, the Holy of Holies housed the Ark of the Covenant, and with it God's mercy seat. When the Law ordered people to appear before the LORD several times each year, they fulfilled the requirement to appear before the LORD by going to the Temple. God's own presence was in the Temple.
The Temple that Jesus had spoken of was his own body. In saying this, Jesus transferred the title of "Temple" from a building in Jerusalem to himself. Now we look to him for the sacrifice offered, we look to him for atonement. We look to him to intercede for us, and people direct their prayers to God towards him. In Jesus is the covenant, and in him is God's mercy seat. When we appear before him, we appear before the LORD, and God's own presence is in Christ.
The ancient ceremonial law was a shadow of what was to come. The reality comes in Christ.
Index for systematic theology series