And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. And he was teaching them and saying to them, "Is it not written, "My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations"? But you have made it a den of robbers." (Mark 11:15-17)
As I read the text it is as if we could say, "My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations"? But you have made it ________." Fill in the blank. What have we made God's House? It is a simple thing to say, but God's House belongs to God. It is a place where He ought to be comfortable and His wishes respected. As in ancient times, so today, it is staggering to consider how different the temple was being used compared with God's design. God had given revelation to His people over the centuries that should have made clear the purpose of God; nevertheless, somehow and at some time, a great disconnect took place. Another generation arose that knew not the Lord, nor the works that He had done in Israel. It had been a very long time since anyone had been smitten dead for mishandling the holy things of God. In fact, God was gone, but the structure and the people remained. Even the Ark of the Covenant was missing.
A House To Play
In the Middle Ages, church buildings (cathedrals) were designed to draw the attention of the people heavenwards. Today, many youth and seeker sensitive oriented "churches" resemble a dance club. The effect draws the mind to Saturday night shindigs - frolicking with the girls and guys. The deceived believe this is a way to attract the youth and make them feel "comfortable." Somebody forgot to teach them that God's House is not designed to make sinners feel welcome-but a place where God feels welcome. One or the other will not be comfortable in the house. Who have we chosen to accommodate? I recently read where churches are turning to beer parties to reach the lost. It's just the next logical step. They made the building look like a club and now in some cases it has become a club. The only difference is that they throw the name of God around here and there and maybe say a prayer or two if they're not too embarrassed. What's next? Let's see. Well, we know what Aaron did at the base of the mountain. It won't be long until these characters raise their dance clubs and suds to the people and declare, "these be the gods that led thee out of Egypt."
A House to Enter
God and sinners cannot feel welcome at the same place and at the same time- nor should they. It is madness to think otherwise. Actually, it is the consequence of goats and wolves making it into roles of leadership. Their are some in this generation that are so deceived, that their actions would make a reprobate tremble 50 years ago. Nevertheless, beginning with Noah, God set about to bring revelation of his concept of "His house." He had instructed Noah to build what was effectively a floating house and then bid the rebellious people to repent and "come in." God then called Noah's "house" to enter the Ark. (Genesis 7:1) This is two pictures of a "house" combined into one. We will not delve too deeply into this powerful picture, but God was saying in a figure, come out from among them and come into Me. Peter tells us that Noah's house was saved by the overflow (baptism) of water. This picture of baptism is also relevant because it was a judgment on sin. Rebellion, for a moment of time, was destroyed. Every drop of rain that fell lifted Noah's house (a figure of God's house) away from this sinful world and closer to Him. God was separating the house (Ark) from Sin. When it finally settled and they opened the door their lives were completely different. The sin that once dominated had been judged. As one writer has said, it was as if they could declare plainly, "the old things have passed away and all has become new." Praise the Lord.
The Gate of Heaven
We have another picture of a "house" and God's intended plan when we look at the life of Jacob. We read, And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it. (Genesis 28:12) God had broken through into Jacob's life. He was suddenly conscious of God. There was a ladder set up to heaven signifying a link between heaven and earth. Angels (messengers) were ascending and descending on that ladder. At once God spoke to Jacob, declaring Himself and His plans. Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, "Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it." And he was afraid and said, "How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven." (Genesis 28:16-17) Here we have added important revelation as to what constitutes a "house" of God. It is the gate of heaven; the place from which man can access God. It is the Oracle, the place from which God speaks. Jacob called this place Beth-El.
A Mobile Palace
Later on God would give the Israelites the Wilderness Tabernacle as a "house", that is to say, mobile palace from which He could rule as King in the midst of His people Israel. He was tabernacling among them. The tabernacle and the people both constituted "the house" like a wheel within a wheel. The first covenant worship was dominated by ceremonies and sacrifices that the tabernacle (and later the temple) utilized. This palace was to be the Oracle- the place from which God speaks. Walking horizontally into the tabernacle was akin to ascending vertically up to the throne room of God. It was all figurative, but in a sense God was uniquely present in His Glory. The Ark of the Covenant represented the throne of His presence and the mercy seat was where the blood was offered. Keep this in mind as we build revelation.
The House of God
Returning to our picture of "house of God" (as it related to Jacob) we stated that the word Beth-El means "house of God." Jacob saw the ladder up to heaven with angels ascending and descending and called the place after this name. He knew he could reach God from there. It was the gate of Heaven. God has always desired to tabernacle among His people as He had done with Adam before the fall, but even more so as we will see in time. As a sidebar it would be useful to point out that when Nathanael was taken by Jesus' knowledge of him under the fig tree, Jesus answered him; verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man. (John 1:49-51) This should have cross referenced in their minds of Jacob's experience of the "house of God." It would serve as a sign that Jesus Christ was "the gate of heaven"; that is to say, He was Bethel- the House of God while He walked the earth. Herod's temple was only a figure of the truth.
Christ in You, The Hope of Glory
Jesus told the disciples that it was expedient for Him to go or the Comforter would not come. No man could be in Christ while Christ walked the earth. Our Lord's death on the cross enabled the 'Temples of men' to be cleansed by the blood and readied to receive the Holy Spirit in such a way as described by Steven in Acts 7 and Isaiah 66:1-2. Men always resisted the Holy Ghost and did not want Him near. This is still man's problem; they want to receive and resist at the same time. It is impossible. To those that truly 'receive Him' He gives the authority to become the sons of God. He transforms them by the Spirit by baptizing them into His Body by the Spirit. Simply put, regenerate man is now the Temple in one sense and living stones in the Temple in another sense. Yet for all this Ephesians tells us it is only the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession. It is what the New Covenant provides.
A House of Prayer
And he was teaching them and saying to them, "Is it not written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations'? But you have made it a den of robbers."
We have come full circle back to our text to demonstrate a crucial aspect of what God means by "a house of God". It was to be a place from which God could speak and people could be brought to the very gate of heaven. A place where they could hear the call to "come out from among them" and "come in to Me." It was a place where one experienced judgment upon sin's effect upon our lives and as the Spirit is poured out we could be separated from this world and brought near unto God.
This "house" is now comprised of believers that have received the Spirit and are the very temples of God (Beth-El). It is a house of prayer where communication between God and "the house" is open continually. Not on occasion, but continually. This is a place where God is welcome and can be at rest. It is a place that when God is near, sinners will fall on their faces and declare, "of a truth... God is among you."
SI Moderator - Greg Gordon