In the New Testament there are many ways the writers talk about God in us. As we studied in yesterday’s post, “your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit” is one way. There are others. All of the ways can be brought together under one heading, “Union with Christ.” Take for example what Paul writes in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” Does the human body of Jesus live inside Paul’s human body? No. What Paul means is that Jesus’ Spirit, the Holy Spirit, lives in Paul, and Paul so deeply identifies with and relates to the Spirit, that he is correct to say that he, Paul, has a union with Jesus. That union, that closeness, that deep relational connection, is exactly what God describes in the vision to Ezekiel in Ezekiel chapters 40-44, when he gave Ezekiel plans for a new temple. But here is the most important part of this union. When we are in union with God, we will think, talk, and act more and more like Jesus.
How is your union with Jesus? Take a look at how Paul describes this in Ephesians 3:14-19.
“For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”
Notice a couple things about this prayer. First, the prayer is Trinitarian. It mentions the Father, it mentions Jesus Christ, and it mentions the Spirit. All are described as equal, all are God. We believe in God as three equal persons.
Second, the prayer describes each member of the Trinity as dwelling within the person. In verse 16, Paul prays that they would be strengthened with power through the Spirit in their inner being. Then in verse 17, he says prays that Christ may dwell in their hearts. Finally he prays that they may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Third, this intense inward union with Christ is rooted in Christ’s love. Our God is loving! And notice how expansive his love is. God wants to have union, connection, relationship with us because he loves us!
Fourth, God wants us to experience this love in two ways. One is knowing about the love, how expansive it is. The second way he wants us to know his love if to experience it. He wants us to know it in a way that surpasses knowledge. That’s more than factual knowledge, that is experiential relational knowledge, because God is so deeply rooted in our being. That is union with Christ.
Do you have that deep experience with Jesus? With the Spirit? That deep union with God is what God shows Ezekiel through the vision of the Temple. It is what God wants for us through his Spirit. All flowing from his indescribable love.
So whatever happened to these temple blueprints? As far as we know, nothing. Another temple would be built, but not Ezekiel’s temple. You can read about the new temple in the biblical books of Ezra and Haggai. It is often called Zerubbabel’s temple, because he was the Jewish leader who oversaw construction. That temple was smaller than Solomon’s, but it lasted longer. Eventually it too was replaced by Herod’s much larger and more magnificent temple, which was standing in Jesus’ day, until 70 CE, when the Romans destroyed it, never to be rebuilt again. The Western or Wailing Wall is the only remaining part of the temple in Jerusalem to this day, and the Muslim Dome of the Rock stands on the temple mount. But remember that God did not ultimately want a building to be his home. This vision symbolizes God’s heart to be present with his people, and we can praise God that through his Spirit, he lives in us!
I personally have learned about this connection with God over the last 4-5 years in a new way, contemplative prayer for union with Christ. Recently, one of the ways, I have practiced union with God, and there are a variety of ways, is through the Pause app. You don’t need the app to practice union with Christ, but I appreciate the guided prayers the app provides. Here’s how it works: You pause and pray, and the person narrating the prayer invites you to pray many different prayers including, “Lord, heal my union with you.” I appreciate that prayer. Does your union with God need to be healed? Israel’s union with God needed to be healed. I invite you to begin praying that prayer, “Lord heal my union with you.” Make time for quietly praying that prayer, asking God to do a work of renewal in your heart.