The events of our Lord Jesus’ coming into the temple portray wonderful spiritual truths about the appearing of His life in our being. In our individual progression, He is coming from the heaven of our spirit to the earth of our soul. To those who look for His coming within, Christ is yet coming to be all that He is. In various times and through innumerable ways Christ comes – He comes to teach in His temple, to heal in His temple, to reveal Himself in His temple, to raise a standard in His temple and, as we will see in this message, to cleanse His temple.
“Then Jesus went into the temple of God and drove out all those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. And He said to them, ‘It is written, My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves’” (Matt. 21:12-14).
The events of the cleansing of the temple depict a unique aspect of our Lord Jesus than all the accounts of His life. Here is the gentle and meek Lamb, that compassionate and loving Savior driving out the merchants of the temple with a whip, pouring out their money on the ground and overturning their tables and seats. Behold the “wrath of the Lamb” (Rev. 6:16). It’s unfortunate that we have often espoused erroneous notions about the wrath of God, assuming His wrath as vindictive vengeance. Contrary to popular teachings, the wrath of God is an expression of His love. The Greek word used for ‘wrath’ is ‘orge’ and is properly translated as ‘reaching forth with passionate desire’. The simple definition is ‘passion’. So what our Lord Jesus did in the temple was not an outburst of uncontrolled anger but the expression of the passion of the Lamb whose purpose is to purify and not punish.
On that particular day in the temple in Jerusalem, Jesus witnessed the supply and demand of man’s commerce which had turned the temple into a marketplace. Beneath all that had become embraced as norm, Jesus saw the abominations and high places that polluted the temple of God. But to assume that the same abominations Jesus encountered are not among His people today would be a gross misjudgment. In fact the church system of our day thrives on it. Surely if you too were to lift your gaze beneath the ordinary practices of the church system, you would find reinstituted the money changers (economic system of man) and those that sell doves (merchants of peace).
The religious system of man have always been money driven, be it, church attendance, programs, conferences, events, guest appearances, building drives, concerts, book sales, CDs etc. Ministry has become a very profitable business in the 21st century. There you will also find the merchants of peace; those who heal the wounds of the Lord’s people superficially, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace (Jer. 6:14). Like Simon the sorcerer, many today assume that the gifts and blessings of God can be purchased with money and denominational association. It is exactly this that John saw in the Spirit: “the merchants of the earth have become rich through the abundance of her (Mystery Babylon) luxury” (Rev. 18:3).
But the cleansing of the temple encompasses all defilements that extend beyond greed and love of money. Those who are content in their denominational camps may wonder what there is that needs to be purged today. Dear reader of these lines, what would our Lord Jesus find if He came to the multitude in the church system today? Would He not find false images and concepts of God? Would He not find the promotion of fleshly programs and entertainment? Would he not find the celebration of pagan holidays? Would He not find the worship of worship? Would He not find the saint’s reverence to men? Would He not find a people zealous for Christianity instead of Christ? Would He not find the hierarchy of the systems of the world established among His people? Would He not find self-preservation and self-fulfillment as the focus of ministry? Would He not find the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life promoted as blessings? Would He not find Adam ministering in His temple?
Our Lord Jesus warned: “when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place whoever reads, let him understand” (Matt. 24:15). This was the Lord’s indictment against the children of Judah: “They have set their abominations in the house which is called by My name, to pollute it” (Jer. 7:30). To those who can see it in the Spirit, there is much that has been exalted among His people that pollutes His abode.
All defilement comes from within our temple. “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts…these are the things which defile a man” (Matt. 15:19, 20). Indeed “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9). The sheer wickedness of man’s heart is revealed to John who sees in his vision a mysterious picture. In the vision relayed in Revelation 9:1-12, John sees a bottomless pit as the fifth trumpet is sounded in the earth. The pit symbolizes the lowest realm, the heart of the natural man, where all wickedness and deceitfulness lies. Jesus said: “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and defile the man” (Mk. 7:18-23). And if you can receive it, the worst hell is this pit that man bears in his own being. It is from this pit that the locusts; the outward manifestation and expressions of all that we see in the world and religion, come from (Rev. 9:1-3).
Too numerous are the things that arise out of the deceitfulness of the heart. They may not always be tangible, suppressed in the inner chambers of man’s being. But there are those that find tangible form and expression, just as the situation Jesus witnessed in the temple. This is the mystery of the smoke (intangible expressions) and locusts (tangible) that come out of the bottomless pit. Yet both are intertwined for John saw that “out of the smoke locusts came” (Rev. 9:3). The deceit of the heart is as the bottomless pit, indeed “who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9). Man, as advanced as he has become, has not been able to find a remedy for the heart.
Only when our Lord Jesus comes to our temple will the true condition of our heart be first revealed. Before God begins purging any defilement in our life, He first reveals it to us. If you can’t see the abomination in the religious church system and indeed within yourself then do not suppose a purging will occur. On the contrary, you will oppose it. It is only when the power of God’s Spirit strikes the soul that she sees her darkness. Isaiah cried: “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, The Lord of hosts” (Isa. 6:5).
No one can be spiritual unless God first exposes the carnality within. “Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the MAN OF SIN IS REVEALED, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God” (2 Thes. 2:3-4). A precursor to the spiritual reality of the Day of the Lord is the unveiling of the abomination (the man of sin) in the temple.
The Greek word for ‘that man’ is ‘anthropos’ which refers to many people and not a single person. This is not some Antichrist entity to come one day. This man of sin refers to the sinful nature in all of us. It refers to the deceitful heart of the natural man and the carnal man or the Adamic consciousness in all men. This is indicated by the fact that this man opposes and exalts himself above God. The bible makes it clear that the “carnal mind is enmity against God” (Rom. 8:7). It’s important to also note where this man opposes and exalts himself above God. It is in the temple of God. None should suppose that they will experience the Kingdom of God without first having their Adam exposed and crucified. Oh if the saints could see how this man has corrupted the world and indeed the temple of God.
Defilement is exposed for the purpose of being purged. Only the Lord’s coming into His temple will cause this man’s exposure and purging. For “Then shall that wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of HIS COMING” (2 Thes. 2:8). Glory to God for His coming! For those who are now experiencing the Day of the Lord and the increase of Christ in their temple, the darkness of their carnal nature and the religious defilements of the heart are being exposed by the Day. This is good news to those who rejoice in His coming as a Refiner.
The Lord is a Consuming Fire who comes as a refiner’s fire and fuller’s soap to purge the corruption in our temple. Dear saint, do not suppose you are exempt. God will not relent until He has a man on the earth in the image of Christ. Thus, Malachi prophecies: “’And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple, even the Messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight. Behold, He is coming,’ Says the Lord of hosts. ‘But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire and like launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver; He will purify the sons of Levi, And purge them as gold and silver’” (Mal. 3:2-3).
It is necessary that every apprehended son (the sons of Levi) partake of this purging by fire. Through His various dealings and proving, His sons are now experiencing the intensity of His fire and it will endure until we have been thoroughly purified and nothing remains but Himself. This refining is the dealing of the Spirit of God on our soul to produce in us His image. But many have refused to hear this sound and submit to His purging. Surely they will be counted among the impenitent cites of Galilee. And in them will the warning of our Lord Jesus be fulfilled; woe to you Chorazin (furnace of smoke), for the defilement from the pit of your heart has reached heaven. Woe to you Bethsaida (house of fish), for you refuse to repent trusting in your numbers. Woe to you Capernaum (village of comfort), for you have grown rich and idle in the comfort of your religious encampments.
It is inevitable that all will experience an awakening in the Day of His coming. The Day (Christ) will purge with fire and prove all that we have established in His temple, good and bad. Paul declares: “Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is” (1 Cor. 3:12-13).
Our Lord Jesus comes to His temple for one purpose and one purpose only and that is to establish the dominion of God. And anything that opposes God is a defilement that requires His wrath. The merchant in all of us needs His whip, our corruption needs His incorruption, our darkness needs His light, our flesh needs His Spirit, our heart needs a washing by His word.
And so we pray, come Lord! Come as a refiner’s fire and as a launderer’s soap. Drive out all the corruption that pollutes Your abode. Come to Your temple and purify our hearts that we may ascend Your holy mountain. And as it is written of You; “Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up” (John 2:17), in us too, stir-up a zeal for Your temple and a passion for the sanctification of Your people.