And the glory of the Lord went up from the midst of the city and stood on the mountain, which is on the east side of the city. Ezekiel 11:23
In the first part of our series, we saw God’s glory leave Solomon’s Temple and move to a mountain on the east side of Jerusalem. The Second Temple was rebuilt many years later, but we do not see the glory of God moving from the mountain into the new Temple. We do find a revival of obedience to the Mosaic Law among God’s people in Judah through the teaching ministry of Ezra and Nehemiah, but there is no mention of God’s glory in any of the post-exile literature.
So, what happened to God’s glory? Did it ever return to the Second Temple? Is it still residing on a mountain on the east side of Jerusalem? Did it return to Heaven? Let’s see what we find as we continue our study.
Second Temple Glory
The Second Temple is sometimes referred to as Zerubbabel’s Temple since Zerubbabel led the first group of Jews from Babylon back to Judah in the latter part of the 6th century BC. Though there is mention in the Old Testament that Persian kings gave some of the gold and silver items stolen from the First Temple back to Zerubbabel and later to Nehemiah (Ezra 1 and 6), there is no mention of the Persians returning the Ark of the Covenant. The Old Testament does not mention the whereabouts of the Ark after King Nebuchadnezzar’s theft of Temple items. The only mention of the location of the Ark of the Covenant in the New Testament is in Revelation 11:9:
Then the temple of God was opened in heaven, and the ark of His covenant was seen in His temple. And there were lightnings, noises, thunderings, an earthquake, and great hail.
We find details of what items the Babylonian army took from the First Temple before destroying it in 2 Kings 25 and 2 Chronicles 36. The Ark of the Covenant is not mentioned by name, but 2 Chronicles 36:18 reads, “And all the articles from the house of God, great and small, the treasures of the house of the Lord, and the treasures of the king and of his leaders, all these he took to Babylon.” That would have most likely included the Ark of the Covenant unless the Jews had removed it from the Temple in some other way or God moved the Ark to Heaven. We do know that the Apostle John saw the Ark of God’s Covenant in the Heavenly Temple in the great vision known as Revelation, so God moved the Ark there at some time in history.
King Herod began an expansion of the Second Temple about 20 BC. Work on the expanded Temple continued until about 63 AD. The Temple Jesus visited at the age of 12 would have been Herod’s Temple still under some construction. The same was true of the Temple Jesus visited during His earthly ministry.
Another interesting note is that Joseph and Mary took the Baby Jesus to the Temple to be circumcised. It was there that Simeon saw Jesus. The Holy Spirit had promised Simeon that he would not die until He had seen the Lord’s Messiah. The Spirit moved Simeon into the temple courts, saw Jesus, took Him in his arms and praised God, saying:
Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel. The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: ‘This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” Luke 2:29-35
There was also a very old prophetess who worshipped at the 2nd Temple night day, fasting and praying. Her name was Anna. She also went up to Joseph and Mary, gave thanks to God and spoke about the Baby Jesus to everyone who was “looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:36-38).
That is the first time in centuries that God (Jesus Christ, the Son of God) had personally been in the Temple as far as we can tell. However, that does not mean God’s glory returned to the Temple at that time.
We find an interesting timeline of events in the life of Jesus through an exchange He had with Jews after He drove out money changers from the Temple.
So the Jews answered and said to Him, ‘What sign do You show to us, since You do these things?’ Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ Then the Jews said, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?’ But He was speaking of the temple of His body. Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said. John 2:18-22
This exchange tells us that Jesus drove out the money changers in about 26 or 27 AD. We might ask if Jesus driving out the money changers and visiting the Temple during His earthly ministry might be a type of God’s glory returning to the Temple. The glory of God is His presence among His people and Jesus Christ, being God in the Flesh, did enter the Temple. However, I don’t think Jesus being in the Temple was God’s glory “returning” to the Temple as much as it was God “offering” to bring His glory to the Temple through Israel’s acceptance of Jesus Christ as Messiah and King. As we know, the leaders and most people in Israel rejected God’s offer and the Romans destroyed Herod’s Temple in 70 AD.
Another thing to keep in mind is that when Jesus died on the Cross, the veil in the Temple was torn from top to bottom (Matthew 27:50-51). The veil was the large curtain that separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the Temple interior. The glory of God is not mentioned as leaving the Holy of Holies at that point, probably because it had not returned to the Second Temple. The tearing of the curtain (veil) most likely referenced the power of Jesus’ death to reconcile men to God through His blood. The sacrifice of animals at the Temple would no longer be needed because the sacrifice of Jesus was the only sacrifice needed to fulfill God’s will and please Him (Hebrews 10).
What this means for followers of Jesus Christ is that Christians are now the “temple of God.”
Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 1 Corinthians 3:16
Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 1 Corinthians 6:19
Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. Ephesians 2:19-22
This is a mystery that God kept hidden until He revealed it to Paul (Ephesians 3). As Paul wrote the Colossians, Christ in us is “the hope of glory.”
I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God which was given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God, the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints. To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Colossians 1:24-27
Future Temple Glory
Exile and post-exile prophets spoke about a day when God’s glory would return to a “latter Temple” that would come following God’s defeat of all His enemies. Ezekiel chapters 37 – 39 reference a time we know as the Tribulation and “end of the age.” It is a time when God will restore Israel as the world’s leading nation through Jesus Christ its King.
I will set My glory among the nations; all the nations shall see My judgment which I have executed, and My hand which I have laid on them. So the house of Israel shall know that I am the Lord their God from that day forward. Ezekiel 39:21-22
Ezekiel chapters 40 – 48 reference a future time when God will establish a new Temple and fill it with His glory. It’s a fascinating read as you compare it with the last few chapters of Revelation. Remember how we saw the glory of God leave the First Temple and move to a mountain to the east of the city of Jerusalem? Watch how God’s glory will return to the future Temple.
Afterward he brought me to the gate, the gate that faces toward the east. And behold, the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east. His voice was like the sound of many waters; and the earth shone with His glory. It was like the appearance of the vision which I saw—like the vision which I saw when I came to destroy the city. The visions were like the vision which I saw by the River Chebar; and I fell on my face. And the glory of the Lord came into the temple by way of the gate which faces toward the east. The Spirit lifted me up and brought me into the inner court; and behold, the glory of the Lord filled the temple. Ezekiel 43:1-5
God’s glory returns to the new Temple from the “way of the east.” It’s interesting to note that the Mount of Olives is east of the old city of Jerusalem. Jesus and His disciples were on the “Mount of Olives” when they asked Him “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3) The resurrected Jesus ascended back to Heaven from the “mount called Olivet” and angels told His disciples that He would “so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). Mt. Olivet may be the mountain where God’s glory moved to and “stood.” Could it be that God’s glory ascended with Jesus? Could it be that God’s glory will descend again when Jesus returns to earth? The glory of God moving from Mt. Olivet to the new Temple may coincide with Jesus returning to Mt. Olivet to make His way into Jerusalem to sit as King of kings and Lord of lords in the new Temple.
For thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Once more (it is a little while) I will shake heaven and earth, the sea and dry land; and I will shake all nations, and they shall come to the Desire of All Nations, and I will fill this temple with glory,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘The silver is Mine, and the gold is Mine,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘The glory of this latter temple shall be greater than the former,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘And in this place I will give peace,’ says the Lord of hosts. Haggai 2:6-9
Then speak to him, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, saying: ‘Behold, the Man whose name is the BRANCH! From His place He shall branch out, And He shall build the temple of the Lord; Yes, He shall build the temple of the Lord. He shall bear the glory, And shall sit and rule on His throne; So He shall be a priest on His throne, And the counsel of peace shall be between them both.’ ‘Now the elaborate crown shall be for a memorial in the temple of the Lord for Helem, Tobijah, Jedaiah, and Hen the son of Zephaniah. Zechariah 6:12-14
The time of God’s shaking all nations is close. The time of Christ’s return is at hand. May we be busy in the Lord’s service!
Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. Matthew 24:44
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Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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