Tag Archives: tabernacle

Holy Communion and the Bread & Wine on the Table of Shewbread/Presence

As Christians we are all used to taking communion or partaking in the Lord’s Supper / Lord’s Table. It is a tradition that has been handed down through generations and is regarded as one of the most important customs carried out by Christians each sunday. Everyone understands the significance of the Bread and Wine being equaled to the Body and Blood of Christ. But do we really understand the real significance behind this Commemoration? Did it simply originate with Christ?

Now whether the Last Supper was a Passover Meal has been reviewed before here, so we will not be delving into that question again. The discoveries in that study led us to conclude that the Last Supper was a meal shared at the beginning of the 14th Day of the 1st Month of the Biblical Year. Although the Synoptic Gospels and John’s Gospel seem to be contradicting each other, they all agreed that Christ died on the Passover and the Last Supper was held the night before. Even though the Last Supper seemed like a Passover seder, there wasn’t enough evidence to prove the likeness of this theory. The Last Supper would have most probably been a Pre-Passover meal shared in celebration of the ushering in of the Passover day, and the upcoming Sacrifice, through which we came out of slavery to Sin, just as the Israelites came out of slavery to Egypt.

In this study we hope to find the reason behind Christ’s choice of Bread & Wine as a symbol and commemoration, and what it really means to partake of communion / Lord’s Supper / Lord’s Table.

This study is broken down into the following parts:
1. Christ speaks of the Body & the Blood
2. Covenants and the Covenant meals
3. The Table of Shewbread/Showbread
4. The Contents of The Table of Shewbread – Bread & Wine
5. The Table of the Lord
6. The Bread & Wine of the Old Testament and the New
7. Paul speaks of the Lord’s Table
8. Conclusion

1. Christ speaks of the Body & the Blood
On the eve before the Passover was killed, at the end of the 13th day and the beginning of the 14th day (The Biblical day starts at Sundown), Christ sat down with His Disciples to have His last meal – His Last Supper. The Day when the Passover Lamb was to be Sacrificed had begun. And as the Disciples were having their Supper, Yeshua – their teacher & master makes a parallel between His Body & Blood and the Bread & Wine that they consume.

Mat 26:26-28  And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.

Mar 14:22-24  And as they did eat, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and brake it, and gave to them, and said, Take, eat: this is my body. And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them: and they all drank of it. And he said unto them, This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many.

Luk 22:14-20  And when the hour was come, he sat down, and the twelve apostles with him. And he said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer: For I say unto you, I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, Take this, and divide it among yourselves: For I say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come. And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.

Joh 13:1-4  Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end. And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him; Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God; He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself.

All 3 Gospels that record the breaking of bread and drinking of wine note the parallelism brought by Christ. Only John is silent in this sense, indicating that the Supper was before the Feast of Passover and moving onto the washing of feet after the meal. It is a fact that Yeshua equaled the bread to His Body and the wine to His Blood of the New Covenant. Even as Moses ratified the Covenant with Blood(Exo 24:8), Christ also ratifies the New Covenant with His Blood. So from the above we conclude as all agree:

The Bread = Yeshua’s Body
The Wine = Yeshua’s Blood

2. Covenants and the Covenant meals
Although Bread and Wine are not specifically mentioned we see that Covenants preceded with a meal between the two parties in celebration of the agreement at hand. We see such meals taking place between Abimelech/Isaac as well with God and the Elders of Israel. God wanted the elders of Israel to have a Covenant Meal after ratifying the Covenant with blood before Him.

Gen 26:26-30  Then Abimelech went to him from Gerar, and Ahuzzath one of his friends, and Phichol the chief captain of his army. And Isaac said unto them, Wherefore come ye to me, seeing ye hate me, and have sent me away from you? And they said, We saw certainly that the LORD was with thee: and we said, Let there be now an oath betwixt us, even betwixt us and thee, and let us make a covenant with thee; That thou wilt do us no hurt, as we have not touched thee, and as we have done unto thee nothing but good, and have sent thee away in peace: thou art now the blessed of the LORD. And he made them a feast, and they did eat and drink.

Exo 24:1-11  And he said unto Moses, Come up unto the LORD, thou, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel; and worship ye afar off. And Moses alone shall come near the LORD: but they shall not come nigh; neither shall the people go up with him. And Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD, and all the judgments: and all the people answered with one voice, and said, All the words which the LORD hath said will we do. And Moses wrote all the words of the LORD, and rose up early in the morning, and builded an altar under the hill, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel. And he sent young men of the children of Israel, which offered burnt offerings, and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen unto the LORD. And Moses took half of the blood, and put it in basons; and half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar. And he took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people: and they said, All that the LORD hath said will we do, and be obedient. And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, and said, Behold the blood of the covenant, which the LORD hath made with you concerning all these words. Then went up Moses, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel: And they saw the God of Israel: and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness. And upon the nobles of the children of Israel he laid not his hand: also they saw God, and did eat and drink.

After this Meal Moses straight away ascended the mountain and received instructions from God, of which the first was on making a Tabernacle for God. And one of the integral parts in this tent of meeting, was a table which stood in the Holy Place of the Tabernacle.

3. The Table of Shewbread/Showbread
The “Table of Showbread” as it is called in some of our English Translations, is one of the lesser known articles in the Tabernacle. The “shulchan lechem paneem” mentioned in Exo 25:30 can be directly translated as the “Table(shulchan) of the Bread(lechem) of Faces(paneem)” and is also translated in some of our English Bibles as Table of Bread of the Presence(because God was meeting face to face). The Table was one of the 3 Items mentioned to be placed inside the Holy Place of the Tabernacle alongside the Altar of Incense and The Golden Lampstand(Menorah).

Exo 25:23-30  Thou shalt also make a table of shittim wood: two cubits shall be the length thereof, and a cubit the breadth thereof, and a cubit and a half the height thereof. And thou shalt overlay it with pure gold, and make thereto a crown of gold round about. And thou shalt make unto it a border of an hand breadth round about, and thou shalt make a golden crown to the border thereof round about. And thou shalt make for it four rings of gold, and put the rings in the four corners that are on the four feet thereof. Over against the border shall the rings be for places of the staves to bear the table. And thou shalt make the staves of shittim wood, and overlay them with gold, that the table may be borne with them. And thou shalt make the dishes thereof, and spoons thereof, and covers thereof, and bowls thereof, to cover withal: of pure gold shalt thou make them. And thou shalt set upon the table shewbread before me alway.

Exo 40:22,23  And he put the table in the tent of the congregation, upon the side of the tabernacle northward, without the vail. And he set the bread in order upon it before the LORD; as the LORD had commanded Moses.

2Ch 29:18  Then they went in to Hezekiah the king, and said, We have cleansed all the house of the LORD, and the altar of burnt offering, with all the vessels thereof, and the shewbread table, with all the vessels thereof.

Heb 9:2  For there was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and the shewbread; which is called the sanctuary.

4. The Contents of The Table of Shewbread – Bread & Wine
The Table inside the Holy Place had twelve Loaves of Bread. Each loaf was made of two tenth deals (Approximately 3.5Kg) which would have made each loaf quite large in size. The Table also carried dishes, spoons, bowls and covers(qasah-cups) to cover(Nawsak-Pour) Drink Offerings. Prepared every Sabbath, the 12 Loaves of Bread signified the 12 Tribes of Israel as it is set in order before YHVH being taken from the Children of Israel by an Everlasting Covenant. The 12 loaves together represented the whole of Israel. When the new loaves were set on the Sabbath the old ones were taken away, and none but the priests were allowed to eat them. The Drink Offering for which the Cups were placed on the table, carried Wine; as the Drink Offerings were made exclusively with Wine(Exo 29:40, Lev 23:13, Num 15:5,7,10, Num 28:14). The Table of Presence/Showbread was also known as “The Table” & “The Pure Table”.

Lev 24:5-9  And thou shalt take fine flour, and bake twelve cakes thereof: two tenth deals shall be in one cake. And thou shalt set them in two rows, six on a row, upon the pure table before the LORD. And thou shalt put pure frankincense upon each row, that it may be on the bread for a memorial, even an offering made by fire unto the LORD. Every sabbath he shall set it in order before the LORD continually, being taken from the children of Israel by an everlasting covenant. And it shall be Aaron’s and his sons’; and they shall eat it in the holy place: for it is most holy unto him of the offerings of the LORD made by fire by a perpetual statute.

Num 4:7,8  And upon the table of shewbread they shall spread a cloth of blue, and put thereon the dishes, and the spoons, and the bowls, and covers to cover(Nesek-Drink Offering) withal: and the continual bread shall be thereon: And they shall spread upon them a cloth of scarlet, and cover the same with a covering of badgers’ skins, and shall put in the staves thereof.

Exo 37:16  And he made the vessels which were upon the table, his dishes, and his spoons, and his bowls, and his covers to cover withal, of pure gold.

1Ki 7:48  And Solomon made all the vessels that pertained unto the house of the LORD: the altar of gold, and the table of gold, whereupon the shewbread was,

2Ch 13:11  And they burn unto the LORD every morning and every evening burnt sacrifices and sweet incense: the shewbread also set they in order upon the pure table; and the candlestick of gold with the lamps thereof, to burn every evening: for we keep the charge of the LORD our God; but ye have forsaken him.

1Ch 9:32  And other of their brethren, of the sons of the Kohathites, were over the shewbread, to prepare it every sabbath.

It is stated in the Mishnah ” teaches that they(priests) used to lift it up and exhibit the Shewbread thereon to those who came up for the Festivals, saying to them, Behold the love in which you are held by God! –Menachoth 96b & 29a. Why did the Priests say “Behold the love in which you are held by God!”? The table represented the Covenant God had made with Israel – the bread resembling Israel while the Wine most probably resembled the Blood of the Covenant.

5. The Table of the Lord
The Table of Showbread was also known as the “Table of the Lord”, and God Himself calls it “My Table”. The Table of Showbread was the only Table that had any connection to God. Built according to specific instructions by God, this Table was where He came face to face (hence “Lekhem-Pawneem” which means Bread of the Faces commonly translated as showbread or bread of the presence) with Israel. The other main feature of the table was the Drink offering which is Wine – known as the Blood of grapes(Gen 49:11, Deut 32:14). The Bread and Wine on His Table signifying coming face to face or having Fellowship with His Children in remembrance of His Covenant was surely an integral part of the Tabernacle. Every Sabbath, the bread was renewed and the Table with its bread and wine was before the face of God continually.

Mal 1:7  Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar; and ye say, Wherein have we polluted thee? In that ye say, The table of the LORD is contemptible.

Mal 1:12  But ye have profaned it, in that ye say, The table of the LORD is polluted; and the fruit thereof, even his meat, is contemptible.

Eze 44:16  They shall enter into my sanctuary, and they shall come near to my table, to minister unto me, and they shall keep my charge.

Eze 41:22  The altar of wood was three cubits high, and the length thereof two cubits; and the corners thereof, and the length thereof, and the walls thereof, were of wood: and he said unto me, This is the table that is before the LORD.

6. The Bread & Wine of the Old Testament and the New
According to Lev 24:8 the Table was set on behalf of the Children of Israel by the Everlasting Covenant. If the Wine kept on the Table of Shewbread symbolized the Blood of The Covenant and the Bread symbolized the Children of Israel, Then the Bread and Wine symbolized in the Old Testament Scriptures and the New Testament writings could be categorized as below.

Old Testament Scriptures

New Testament Writings

Bread symbolizes Israel

Bread symbolizes Christ’s Body

Wine symbolizes the Blood of the Mosaic Covenant

Wine symbolizes the Blood of the New Covenant

7. Paul speaks of the Lord’s Table
Paul speaks of the Lord’s Table in connection with a specific issues that the Corinthian Congregation was having – Eating meat from the markets which could have been selling animals which were sacrificed at pagan temples (which was common at that time). A more detailed study on this subject can be read here. Paul speaks of the “cup of blessing” and the “communion of the blood of Christ”. The “Bread” and the “communion of the body of Christ”. and then he says we are the body of Christ. According to the above comparisons of Bread in  the Old Testament and New, it could be said that Yeshua equated His body to the body of Israel. In other words we are all His body and a part of Israel – God’s Chosen people. Paul also speaks of Israelites by birth who partake in the altar (which is the tabernacle). Why did Paul bring a connection of the Tabernacle to the blood and body of Christ? Was it because he understood the origins of the Communion we partake? Was his reference to the “Lord’s Table” one which spoke of the Table of Shewbread?

1Co 10:15-21  I speak as to wise men; judge ye what I say. The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?  For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread. Behold Israel after the flesh: are not they which eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar? What say I then? that the idol is any thing, or that which is offered in sacrifice to idols is any thing? But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils. Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table, and of the table of devils.

8. Conclusion
While we are used to calling Communion as the “Lord’s Table”, the only Table of the Lord in the Scriptures was the Table of Shewbread, specifically made according to designs given by God. The Table of Presence as it is also called, was a Table in the Holy Place of the Tabernacle of God which carried Bread which symbolized Israel and the Drink Offering of Wine which probably Symbolized the Blood of the Covenant. The Table was to be before God continually with fresh loaves of Bread added each Sabbath. The Table represented a meeting of Faces(as it is called shulchan lechem paneem – Table of Bread of Faces) as in Communion/Fellowship and was a kind of eternal Covenant Meal where God remembered Israel and the Covenant He had with them. While Yeshua used the Bread and Wine to be equaled to His Body and Blood, the reason probably originated from the Original Lord’s Table. He was equaling Israel that He was going to reign over someday(Acts 1:6, Luk 1:33) to be His Body and equating the Blood He shed to the Blood of The Covenant, just as Moses ratified the Covenant with the Blood of the Covenant(Exo 24:8). As we partake of communion / Lord’s Supper / Lord’s Table we do remember the Covenant God has made with us and that we are His Body/His People. The Bread and Wine has deeper roots in the Scriptures than we thought, being connected to the Mosaic Covenant as well as the renewed Covenant. As often as we eat the bread and drink the wine, let us remember that we are His Body and we are saved only through the Blood of the Covenant which was shed for us. Let us partake of it without having any uncleanness as the Aaronic Priests also did. Let us remember God’s Love for us, and that His Covenant is before His face continually, forever.

The Tabernacle, Temple, Synagogue & Church – What is the House of God?

What is the difference between the tabernacle, the temple, the synagogue and the church? Does God reside in buildings? Can any place of assembly be called “The House of God”? There is little clarity on this subject. Many believe that there was no requirement for a temple of God, and that it was an Old Testament precept removed with Messiah’s sacrifice on the cross. We shall delve into the subject and see what the Bible truly teaches about “The House of God”.

A. What is the Church & Synagogue?
B. What is the Tabernacle & Temple?
C. What is the difference between the Temple and a Church/Synagogue?
D. Can any place of assembly be equated to the Temple of God?
E. Does God reside in a building?
F. Did Christ Replace the Temple of God?

G. The temple of our Bodies

A. What is the Church & Synagogue?
Moses' Seat fromIn an earlier study, we have discussed the biblical definition of the word “Church”. Our findings were very clear – both, “Church” and “Synagogue” meant bodies of people. Not a building or a place – biblically speaking. It is a little known fact that the 1st Century believers attended Synagogue as per James’ Epistle (The word assembly in Jas 2:2 should be translated as synagogue). Even though modern Christians feel a Synagogue is for Jews while Church is for Christians, there was no such separation in thought among the 1st century believers. Both represented bodies of people and not any type of religious building.   

B. What is the Tabernacle & Temple?
The Tabernacle

After the deliverance from Egypt by the hand of God, the children of Israel were commanded to build a sanctuary(H4720 – Mikdawsh – Holy/Set-apart place). Specific instructions were given for the creation of this Tabernacle(H4908 – Mishkawn – Tent/Dwelling Place) and everything inside, to Moses on the Mount of Sinai(Exo 25:8,9,40, 26:30, Heb 8:5). The work was done accordingly (Exo 39:42,43) and the Tent was setup and finished according to further instructions(Exo 40:1-33). The Glory of Yehovah filled the Tabernacle with a physical thick cloud(Exo 40:34), so much so, that even Moses could not enter it. The physical Cloud and Fire were present in the Tabernacle for all the Children of Israel to see, wherever they went henceforth(Exo 40:35-38).

framework-and-tabernacle-layers-lesson-23The Levites were specifically chosen for the keeping of the Tabernacle(Num 1:50,51,53, Chap 3) and the Tabernacle itself was a covering (a sort of capsule) for God to walk with the Children of Israel(2Sam 7:6). This dwelling place moved to a variety of locations till finally under David, the Kingdom was unified. The main content of the Tabernacle was the Ark of the Covenant, which carried the tablets of the covenant written with the hand of God. After God settled the Children of Israel in the land promised to Abraham, there was no more reason for a tent which was pitched and removed – so King David planned to build a House for God which would house His Ark and His Glory(2Sam 7). But God wanted it built by Solomon, the Son of David(2Sam 7:12,13). It is clear that the Tabernacle, even though it was not a permanent structure, was also known as the House of God(Exo 23:19, 34:26, Deut 23:18, Jdg 18:31, 20:18, 21:2).

The Temple in Jerusalem
solomon-templeAfter Solomon came to power, he started the work for God’s House according to God’s command(1Kin 5:3-5) and finished it by moving the Ark from the Tabernacle to the Temple(1Kin 8:3-9). And similar to the establishment of the Tabernacle, where Moses could not enter because of the Glory of God, the cloud filled the holy place so that the priest could not stand to minister(1Kin 8:10,11). Furthermore, God appeared to Solomon and told him that He has consecrated the Temple to Himself by putting His name there, and His eyes and heart would be there perpetually. But He also warned Solomon, that if he or his children turn away from God, that the Temple will be destroyed(1Kin 9:2-9).

Babylonian Chronicles Because of the sins of Solomon, God decided to separate the unified nation of Israel(1Kin 11:9-13). Ten tribes were handed over to Jeroboam, known as the House of Israel, while the rest were left in the hands of Rehoboam, the son of Solomon(1Kin 11:29-36), known as House of Judah, from thereon. These were the two houses of Israel, mentioned in Jeremiah and Hebrews where the New Covenant is mentioned. Both these kingdoms would fall, according to the warnings of the Prophets due to their disobedience, firstly the Kingdom of Israel to Assyria; and then the Kingdom of Judah to Babylonia, where the Temple built by Solomon was also razed to the ground(2Chr 36:19, Ezr 5:12) in 587BC.

The 2nd Temple in Jerusalem
The Temple would be rebuilt under the patronage of King Cyrus of the Persian Empire, by Ezra and Nehemiah(Ezr 5:13, 6:14). The Ark of the Covenant is not mentioned being carried away by the Babylonians or to have been in the 2nd Temple, but is believed to have been hidden by the Prophet Jeremiah before the sack of Jerusalem according to the Apocryphal book “Second Maccabees”.

titusThe Temple we read in the Gospel accounts was the 2nd Temple built by Ezra & Nehemiah, and added onto by Herod the Great, while the same would be destroyed again according to the words of Yeshua, in 70AD by the Romans under Titus. It is believed that all the Disciples of Yeshua other than John, and even Paul would have been killed off by Rome, before the destruction of the 2nd Temple in 70AD.

The 3rd Temple in Jerusalem
Even though there is a fair amount of debate among Christian Denominations whether a 3rd Temple would ever be built, prophetic verses such as 2Thes 2:3,4, Dan 9:27 would have us believe, a main sign of the end of days which is the “Antichrist” better known as the “Son of Perdition/Destruction” would set himself up in the Temple of God, and shall stop the sacrifices. Considering sacrifices can only be offered in the temple of Jerusalem(Deut Chap 12, Psa 78:68, Psa 132:13,14, 1Kin 8:29) the place in which He chose to put His name (2Chr 6:6, 1Kin 11:36), we can deduce that the Temple of God where sacrifices will be offered in these prophetic verses is none other than a temple in Jerusalem. But since the 2nd Temple was destroyed in 70AD, for such prophecies to come to fruition, there must be a 3rd Temple built in the future.

C. What is the difference between the Temple and a Church/Synagogue?
The Temple was built according to the command of God(1Kin 5:5) where God chose to place His Name – the city of Jerusalem/Zion(2Chr 6:6, 12:13). There was only one Temple where sacrifices could be brought to God. The Levites were given the right of service and the Sons of Aaron were the priests. No one else could serve in the temple of God in Jerusalem. Jer 33:17-26 shows forth that the word of God and the Covenants He has made with the Levites and David can never be broken.

In the 1st Century AD, synagogues were in every city around the Hellenistic empire which was under Roman rule(Act 15:21), as we see Yeshua, His disciples and even Paul attending many such assemblies. But there was ONLY ONE Temple. And Yeshua, His disciples and even Paul frequented the Temple in Jerusalem often. Paul even offered sacrifices of Purification for himself and others in Acts 21. This was the Temple where Yeshua was tempted(Mat 4:5). The place where Yeshua overthrew the moneychangers/sellers saying “My House shall be called the house of prayer(Mat 21:13/Isa 56:7), but you have made it a den of thieves(Mat 21:13/Jer 7:11). Where He healed(Mat 21:14). Where He taught daily(Mat 26:55, Luk 21:37,38). This was the same Temple where the 1st Century believers gathered daily(Acts 2:46). Where they taught(Acts 5:20,21). Where Paul offered sacrifices of purification(Acts 21:26,27, 24:18). And which was destroyed by the Romans in 70AD.

The Temple in Jerusalem cannot be equated to a building or assembly, as it was ordained, planned & created according to God’s Word and Will. God let the House that was built for Himself be destroyed twice in history, because of the transgressions of the people. But as per the Prophet Micah:

Mic 4:1-3 But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it. And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.

As many of us know, the above verse talks of the Reign of Messiah, in which the House of God and Jerusalem are both mentioned to be active and very much in existence.

While the Church/Synagogue are assemblies of people, the Temple in Jerusalem was a vessel for God to have an existence on the earth. It was His palace on earth from where He ruled as King over His people.

D. Can any place of assembly be equated to the Temple of God?
You may have heard some of today’s church buildings being called the House of God. While our bodies are called the “House of God” in several places in the New Testament, nowhere has a building ever been called the Temple/House of God, or equated to the Temple that stood in Jerusalem.

E. Does God reside in a building?
Even though the Temple in Jerusalem was known to be a place of high importance in the scriptures, there are many who believe that the Temple was purposeless after the Resurrection of Messiah. The fact that the early church spent most of their time in the temple(Acts 2:46) and that Apostle Paul offered sacrifices of purification at the temple(Acts 21:26,27, 24:18) should be enough to show that the importance of the Temple never dwindled in their eyes.

Many question the necessity of the temple because of verses such as:

Act 7:48-50 Howbeit the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet, Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool: what house will ye build me? saith the Lord: or what is the place of my rest? Hath not my hand made all these things?

Act 17:24  God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands;

The fact is that the thoughts conveyed above by Stephen and Paul are nothing new, but originate from the Old Testament Scriptures. The Temple was not a place made for God to live in, as even the Heavens cannot contain Him. These thoughts are not new ideas revealed after Christ, but what was always apparent to everyone before Christ.

1Ki 8:27  But will God indeed dwell on the earth? behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house that I have builded?

2Ch 2:6  But who is able to build him an house, seeing the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain him? who am I then, that I should build him an house, save only to burn sacrifice before him?

2Ch 6:18  But will God in very deed dwell with men on the earth? behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house which I have built!

Isa 66:1  Thus saith the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest?

Also read Paul and his use of Greek Philosophy on Acts 17:24

The Temple was never built to contain God, but as a place/vessel/body that was specially chosen to host His Holy presence on Earth. It is very unlikely that the significance of the Temple ever changed after Messiah’s resurrection, because of this reason.

F. Did Christ Replace the Temple of God?
Another reason many do not see a reason for a physical Temple in Jerusalem, is because of the thought that Christ replaced it. It is true that He equaled Himself to the Temple(John 2:19-21). Rightly so, as God’s full glory resided in Christ just as in the Temple.

Verses such as these have led people to believe that Christ has done away the Temple of God:

Joh 4:21  Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father.

Mar 15:37,38  And Jesus cried with a loud voice, and gave up the ghost. And the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom.

While John 4:21 could be most likely speaking of the destruction about to fall of Jerusalem as He spoke of many a time in His ministry(Luk 19:44, 21:6), the idea of the Veil being torn has become one, if not the main reason that many believe in the futility of a Temple. In the Gospels, Christ’s death leads to the veil of the Temple being torn in two. Many interpret this as a sign that the separation between God and Man was removed through this act, and that we can now freely go into the holiest of holies. While I do not disagree that Christ’s Death & Resurrection corrected our standing with God, I see a few key details which need to be pointed out before we make any assumptions.

map32It is important to point out that there were 2 veils in the Temple. One which separated the Courts from the Holy place and one which separated the Holy place from the Holiest of Holies. In Hebrews 9:3, when the author speaks of the veil between the Holy place from the Holiest of Holies – He calls it “the second veil”. So it is very likely that what was torn was the outer veil. Furthermore, if the Temple acted as a Garment/Covering that encapsulated God, the tearing of the Veil at the death of Messiah could signify an act of mourning done by God towards His only begotten Son. We see similar practices in the Scriptures in Gen 37:34, 2Sam 13:31, Jos 7:6.

G. The temple of our Bodies
Some believe that our bodies have wholly replaced the Temple in Jerusalem. There are many verses in the New Testament writings that compare our bodies to the Temple of God, such as:

1Co 3:16 Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?
1Co 6:19  What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?
2Co 6:16  And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
Eph 2:21  In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord:
1Pe 2:5  Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.

tmSo what are we to make of this? Have our bodies replaced any remnant of a physical Temple in Jerusalem? While our bodies are a dwelling place for God, as Paul himself writes in 2Corinthians 6:16, he is quoting “I will dwell in them, and walk in them” from the Old Testament Scriptures (Exo 29:45, Lev 26:12, Eze 43:7). So it is not a new thought to think of ones body as a dwelling place for God.

The physical Temple in Jerusalem on the other hand, is a central part of both God’s Word and prophecy.

Isa 2:2,3 And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD’S house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

Isa 56:6,7 Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the LORD, to serve him, and to love the name of the LORD, to be his servants, every one that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of my covenant; Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people.

See Ezekiel chapter 40 to 48

Conclusion
As we saw God instituted the tabernacle, and later the temple in Jerusalem, while the synagogue and the church both stood for bodies of people and not physical structures. While God is not contained in a man-made house, it was His choice to create such a place for His glory to reside and for the people to come to Him with the designated Sacrifices. While not all assemblies or buildings can be called “The House of God” in a Biblical sense, The Temple of God is for from an abolished precept. Yeshua(Jesus’ true name), His disciples or Paul never directly said anything about the Temple being anything other than the House of God. In fact the interaction between the Temple and the 1st century believers was a close one, as we even see with Paul. The tearing of the veil at Christ’s death or the fact that our bodies are called a dwelling place of God, does not mean that the Temple in Jerusalem was any less important in the Bible we hold in our hands today.

 

Biblical significance of Sri Lanka

SLSri Lanka, the island known as “the Pearl of the Indian Ocean” because of it’s natural beauty and it’s rich biodiversity, is truly a country of many wonders that scores of tourists can attest to. Formerly known as Taprobane, Serendib and Ceylon, this little island has been a base point in ancient trade routes and have been occupied by the Portuguese, Dutch & the British as well as been entangled in a civil war for two decades in the recent past. With all of the things that have happened in this little island nation, Sri Lankans (at least the ones living in the rural areas) are still known for their warm smiles and hospitality.

Since of late, with corruption running rampant, there has been a trend where Sri Lankans have started looking out into the world. Most people see no place for themselves in Sri Lanka. Others dream of migrating to other countries in search of better living standards.

I would not dismiss the fact that there are lots of reasons for a person to think this way. But there could be an equal amount of reasons to stay. I believe God has placed us in our own individual countries for a reason. However bad it is, or can get, I still believe we have been placed there for a reason. This belief of mine has got strengthened in the last few months by some interesting facts I learned both through Historical documents and God’s Word about our little island nation, Sri Lanka.

Cinnamon and its use in the Old Testament
In Exo 30:22-29, God Almighty instructs Moses on the productions of the Anointing Oil to be used in the Tabernacle, specifying the use of Cinnamon. While most Cinnamon variants are known as “Cassia”, True Cinnamon is native to Sri Lanka. It is very interesting to note that both Cassia and Cinnamon are specified in Exo 30:23,24; Leading us to believe that there had to be trade of Cinnamon happening at the time of Moses (1500BC approx). Furthermore, both the Book of Proverbs and the Songs of Solomon record “Cinnamon”(Pro 7:17, Son 4:14) leading us to believe that King Solomon also would have engaged in the purchase of Cinnamon, using his trade ships.

Why would God create one of the most aromatic Spices in the world, in this small island and then specify it’s usage in the Anointing Oil used inside the Tabernacle?

Could the “Tharshish” in the Old Testament be “Sri Lanka”?
The Scriptures inform us of King Solomon engaging in trade with a distant country called “Tharshish”(1Kin 10:22). The city of Galle, which is a historical site (with UNESCO World Heritage listing) occupied by the Dutch in the 1700’s is also the place identified as the “Tharshish” in the Old Testament according to folklore. There are several reasons to believe that Sri Lanka could be the Biblical Tharshish.

  • “Tharshish” was a Grandson of Japheth, son of Noah(Gen 10:2,4). And he and his descendants are said to have inhabited “the isles of the Gentiles”.
  • “Tharshish” is mentioned to be an island (Isa 23:6, Psa 72:10)
  • “Tharshish” could not have been an island near the land of Israel, as it took 3 years for the return journey (1Kin 10:22, 2Chr 9:21)
  • Gold, Silver, Ivory, Apes & Peacocks which were brought from “Tharshish” (1Kin 10:22) were all available in Sri Lanka.
  • James Emerson Tennant, appointed colonial secretary of Ceylon in 1845, identified Sri Lanka to have traded with the ships of Hiram and King Solomon [a].
  • Samuel Bochart was one of the first to suggest “Cape Comorin” in Tamil Nadu – India as “Ophir” and Kudremalee in Ceylon for “Tarshish”.[b]
  • Jon 1:3, 4:2 records how Jonah decides to flee to Tharshish from the presence of God. If Tarshish was in fact “Sri Lanka”, it would have made sense for him to flee to this country far away from the land of Israel, where trade used to happen.

Could King Solomon have had strong relationships with Sri Lanka through trade?

  • Vama Vamadevan argues based on early manuscripts that Solomon’s ships sailed to the land of Ophir, the land of the Nagas, early descendants of the Island of Sri Lanka[c]. Tennant supports this claim by providing an extensive review of Hebrew and Persian literature[d].
  • In his study of 6th century Greek writer Cosmas Indicopleustes known as the “Indian Navigator”, eminent classical studies scholar D.P.M. Weerakkody argues points, to the existence of Sri Lanka being an important site of international commerce in the eastern trade route.[e]
  • Sir Thomas Herbert, who visited the island in 1640, says it “was famous in some old conjectures as a place where King Solomon had his Gold of Ophir”.[f]
  • It has also been suggested that “there were two places called Tharshish to which the Pheonecians traded, one in the north where they brought tin, iron and lead, and one in the east which supplied ivory and gold, an island governed by a king, and having a large foreign trade”[g]
  • It is also a well known fact that Sri Lanka has always been a trading point for “precious stones” such as sapphires and rubies which were used in King Solomon’s time. (1Kin 5:17)

Did Sri Lanka contain a strong Jewish presence?
Please keep in mind that by the 5th Century BC, the people left in the land of Israel were only of the House of Judah. This is where the word “Jew” originates from. From that time, all of Israel has been called “Jews”, even though this is not the case. (Please read this article for more information on the subject).

  • Islamic geographic Abdullah el Idris (sometimes known as Edrisi) in Scriptorum Arabum de Rebus Indicis Loci notes that in the ninth century, the Sinhala King [likely to be Kasyapa IV ruled 858 – 891] who advocated an integrated society built around religious tolerance established a council of sixteen officials to advise him: “… four were Buddhists, four Mussulums [sic], four Christians and four Jews”[h].
  • A Ninth Century scholar repeats the above account observed by Abou-Zeyd-Hassan in The Two Mahometans, Part II (written around 911) drawing on the accounts of Ibn Wahab, who mentions “Jews and Manicheans in the service of the king who was tolerant to all religions”, [i]
  • A Captain in the Portugese Company named  Joao Riberiro, In his travel writings describes a trade and food fair where Jews participated that ran for fifty days. He writes:
    Half a league to windward on the same shore all the businessmen who come there assemble and a free Fair is held, laid out like some gallant city with streets and rows of shops; where they collect every kind of merchandise which our discoveries trade in with the nations of Europe and the whole of Asia. For this purpose they bring their gold, silver in bars and wrought, all kinds of precious stones, amber, perfumes, carpets, meleques, money with the rarities of all provinces of the world, in such a fashion that if there is anything anywhere of which one can spend time and money seeing it, it is this great Fair. From the surroundings is brought every variety of food, and though the people are numerous and of various races and religions – Christians, Jews, Moors and gentiles – they can all obtain the food to which they are accustomed. [j]
  • During the Portuguese era, traders from the Red Sea region frequently visited the ports of Colombo and Galle to ply their trade[k]
  • In a piece on trade, using materials found in sealed storage unit in a synagogue in Old Cairo, Goiten refers to a number of Indo- Hebraic trade letters and notes that during the eleventh/twelfth centuries the ‘Indian’ merchants who originated from North Africa and Spain were expected to “…read Hebrew as well as Arabic but not everybody was fluent in writing”. (In these writings India is not confined to the nation state of today, but extends to include the Island of Sri Lanka and beyond) [l]

If you are a Sri Lankan, as well as a believer in Messiah Yeshua (Jesus’ true name), these facts should give you a fresh perspective on the importance of the place of your birth. Each of us have been placed in our respective countries for a reason and a specific purpose. We are here to do His will, who has planned the end from the beginning. We should embrace the Countries of our birth rather than reject them and run away from them. God’s people are scattered around the globe, and it is our duty to take His Word to all who would give ear to Him, wherever we live.

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Special thanks to Dr F. K. Campbell for her excellent research paper “A Historical Appraisal of Jewish Presence in Sri Lanka” which some of the above historical information was extracted from.
[a] According to Tennant the Hebrew terms for Ivory, Apes, and Peacocks, c.f. 1 King, 10:22, is identical with the Tamil names for these objects. The errors in the work of Tennant have been corrected to the extent to which they have been identified. Tennent, James Emerson. 1859. Ceylon: An Account of the Island Physical, Historical and Topographical with Notices of its Natural History, Antiquities and Productions, Vol II, London: Longman, Green & Roberts (Reprinted 1999, Asian Educational Services, New Delhi).
[b] Bochart, Geo. Sacra, iii. 27.
[c] Vama Vamadevan. (2000). Were There Jews in Medieval Ceylon?” The Ceylankan, Vol 11, I, No. 2, May, pp 19 -20.
[d] Tennant, Ceylon: An Account of the Island vol II, Chap I. p.100 – 103.
[e] Weerakkody, DPM, 1981, Ancient Sri Lanka as Described by Cosmas, in Sri Lankan Journal of Humanities, Vol VII, No. 1 & 2, pp, 107 – 127, 112; Weerakkody, DPM. 1997. Indicopleustoi Archaelogies of the Indian Ocean, Taprobanê: Ancient Sri Lanka as known to Greeks and Romans, Brespols, Turnhourt. Bopearachchi, Codrington’s Studies, does acknowledge that in the fifth century Sri Lanka became a main centre of trade (p.53), which incorporates the period of the late Roman empire.
[f] Sir T. Herbert’s Trav. p. 306.
[g] Tennent, Ceylon, ii, pp.99,100, ed 1859.
[h] Scriptorum Arabum de Rebus Indicis Loci, 1838. (Translated by Johannes Gildemesister), p. 53, I Climate, section 6, quoted Tennant, Ceylon: An Account of the Island, Vol 1 , pp561 – 562, footnote 2..
[i] (Weerakkody, DPM, 1981, Ancient Sri Lanka as Described by Cosmas, in Sri Lankan Journal of Humanities, Vol VII, No. 1 & 2, pp, 107 – 127, 112.)
[j] Quoted in H.A.J. Hulugalle. (2000). Ceylon of the early Traveller, 5th edition, Arjuna Hulugalle Dictionaries, Colombo, p. 110 – 111. Original source: Ribeirom J. (1909). Ceilao, trans Paul. E. Pieris, Colombo.
[k] Tennant, Ceylon: An Account of the Island, Vol II, Chap. 1, p.27.
[l] Goitein, S. D. (1954). From the Mediterranean to India: Documents on the Trade to India, South Arabia, and East Africa from the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries, Speculum, Vol. 29, No. 2, Part 1: 181-197.