by Joe Leavell
In AD 70, Commander Titus Flavius Vespasianus marched on the city of Jerusalem to complete the annihilation of the Jewish revolt against the authority of Rome, once and for all. For four long years the Romans had been fighting with the Jewish people over control of Israel. They would not completely snuff out the rebellion until AD 73 when the fortress of Masada finally fell. Ultimately, the Jewish Zealots decided to take their own lives rather than becoming slaves of Rome.
The commanding position of Jerusalem, called Antonia’s Fortress, stood just north of the famous Jewish Temple, which itself overlooked the entire city. While disorganized and struggling with infighting that would cost them dearly, the Zealots rallied together and worked tirelessly to defend their beloved city. They destroyed siege ramps, conducted raids on enemy positions, and rained boiling oil and rocks on the heads of the Romans.
Titus knew that to take the spirit from the Jewish people, he would need to take the Temple, which he could not do until the fortress fell, or until the strength of the Jews gave out. After several failed attacks, Titus, with a force of over 60,000, decided to lay siege to Jerusalem to starve the people into submission. After months of starving their enemies, and crucifying those who tried to escape, the Romans finally broke through the city defenses and made their way up the Temple mount. As one, the Jews rose up with new strength to defend their house of worship. So earnest were the Jews that not only the men, but the women and children who could fight, made their way to the Temple, throwing themselves upon the Romans with little thought of their own safety. Nothing mattered more to them then defending the heartbeat and symbol of who they were as a nation. The slaughter was so thorough that there became a literal wall of bodies between the Romans and the Temple.
Ultimately, the Roman onslaught was too strong. As Jesus prophesied it would happen, the Temple was burned, and ultimately, all but the exterior western wall was completely destroyed by the Romans. In total, the historian Josephus recorded that over a million people were killed and nearly one hundred thousand went into slavery.
Currently, nearly 2,000 years later, the Jewish people still return to the cherished Western Wall to get as close as they can get to the location that the Temple once stood. There they pray, because it is the closest proximity they can achieve to where the glory of God resided in the inner sanctum of the Holy of Holies. Why does that history matter at all for us now?
Our Bodies – The Temple of the Holy Spirit
Because of Christ’s finished work on the cross, God’s glory no longer dwells in a Temple made by human hands. When Jesus was crucified, the veil in the Temple was torn from top to bottom and the Temple of God was placed in the heart of those who believe in Christ. The Holy of Holies now resides within each person who is in Christ.
Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. – 1 Corinthians6:19-20
In our culture today, the word “temple” has very little significance. Yet both the Jewish believers and also the Gentile believers in Corinth that Paul was addressing, viewed a temple as something of such high importance that they would unquestioningly defend to the death. The word picture would have been a powerful image of just how essential the battle for purity really is for the Christian.
There is a real war going on today! We have a real enemy who wants nothing more than to see the sinful desecration and destruction of the Temple of the Most High God: the believers who are that temple today! While our enemy uses many various approaches, this passage says that the type of sin that is a frontal assault against the holy Temple of God is that of sexual immorality.
In a society where pornography and adultery are rampant, many who claim the name of Jesus have failed to see two vital truths that the former Jewish defenders believed deeply about the temple in Jerusalem. We have forgotten both the immense value of God’s Temple and the war that rages for its destruction.
Who Owns the Temple?
Not one person in Israel would have said that the Temple in Jerusalem belonged to them personally. They would have affirmed that it belonged to God as His dwelling place. The Holy of Holies was where the glory of God rested. Yet, what about your Temple? Who owns the Temple of your body? Your body was bought with the precious blood of Jesus. It belongs to God.
How much value do we place on the sanctity of God’s Temple? While the children of Israel were literally willing to stack their bodies up in heaps to defend the Temple in Jerusalem, have we even settled the basic question of who owns our bodies? Have we allowed our enemies an open door to what is sacred? Who owns what we look at, what we watch, what we eat, and how we spend our time? Who owns the purity of our mind, and the true faithfulness to our spouse?
Maybe you’re reading this and have struggled and repeatedly failed in this area for years. The good news of the Gospel is that we truly have been bought with a price, and that our position with God, as His child, is secure! If you are in Christ, the Holy Spirit dwells within you, and you are redeemed and free! The time is now to purify our hearts, our lives, and live out our freedom to walk in purity of relationship with Christ. Today, I pray that you will see the immense value that God has placed upon us by making our hearts His dwelling place, and that you will glorify God in your body, which belongs to Him. I pray that you will see this for exactly what it is: a war for your worship in the Holiest of Holies.
If this is a war that you are battling, you do not have to do so alone. We are here to fight alongside you!
For Further Study:
The Hole in our Holiness – Kevin DeYoung
The Holiness of God – R.C. Sproul
Passions of the Heart – Dr. John Street
Finally Free – Heath Lambert