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Will there ever be another temple built in Jerusalem? What if God were building a very different temple out of a very special people living on earth today?
A quarry is a place where stone is mined for construction purposes. In the United States, for example, the states of South Carolina, North Carolina, and Georgia are known for their high-quality granite quarries. Many other locations around the globe have high-quality stone as well. A fine home may have a granite countertop from Brazil or travertine floors from Italy or Turkey. Stone is quarried for construction purposes all over the world.
But only a few today understand that God Himself is engaged in a kind of quarry work. What does this mean for those striving to progress on their Christian journey?
The temple King Solomon built was constructed in a remarkable way.
Then King Solomon raised up a labor force out of all Israel; and the labor force was thirty thousand men. And he sent them to Lebanon, ten thousand a month in shifts: they were one month in Lebanon and two months at home; Adoniram was in charge of the labor force. Solomon had seventy thousand who carried burdens, and eighty thousand who quarried stone in the mountains, besides three thousand three hundred from the chiefs of Solomon’s deputies, who supervised the people who labored in the work. And the king commanded them to quarry large stones, costly stones, and hewn stones, to lay the foundation of the temple. So Solomon’s builders, Hiram’s builders, and the Gebalites quarried them; and they prepared timber and stones to build the temple…. And the temple, when it was being built, was built with stone finished at the quarry, so that no hammer or chisel or any iron tool was heard in the temple while it was being built (1 Kings 5:13–18; 6:7).
When you visit a typical construction job—a house being built, for instance—there is plenty of noise. Hammers or nailing tools slap repeatedly on boards, and there is a general cacophony of sounds coming from the activities of the workmen. In ancient times, it was no different. Stonemasons had to cut the building blocks to fit, and in Solomon’s day, the early Iron Age, skilled workmen used iron hammers and chisels to cut and shape the building material, much of which was stone. Stone would be rough-cut at the quarry and then trimmed and finished on the site.
The Bible records that there were tens of thousands of workmen involved, but the construction management was different from the standard practice of their day; the stone was not only cut out at the quarry, but finished there as well. This would have required that the workmen finishing the large stone blocks have precise measurements to work from. Then the finished stone could be transported to the temple site and put into place without further work by a hammer, a chisel, or another tool. The construction site for Solomon’s temple was quiet compared to that of most projects in his day and ours.
The glorious temple that Solomon built was destroyed by the Babylonians around 586 BC. “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. Then they burned the house of God, broke down the wall of Jerusalem, burned all its palaces with fire, and destroyed all its precious possessions” (2 Chronicles 36:18–19).
When Judah returned to Jerusalem in the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, they built a second temple that was far from being as glorious as the first one. “But many of the priests and Levites and heads of the fathers’ houses, old men who had seen the first temple, wept with a loud voice when the foundation of this temple was laid before their eyes. Yet many shouted aloud for joy” (Ezra 3:12). The second temple was greatly expanded by Herod in Jesus’ day, but was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD. The western retaining wall of the temple mount still exists in the form of huge stones put there by Herod the Great, and the “Wailing Wall,” as it is often called, is known as a spiritually significant location for the Jews.
Some have asked whether there will be a third temple built on the Temple Mount before Christ comes. The Bible gives hints that it will be—although it does not have to be built for the sacrifices to begin. In Ezra’s day, the sacrifices were resumed as soon as the priesthood was sanctified, which occurred before the foundation of the second temple was laid. “From the first day of the seventh month they began to offer burnt offerings to the Lord, although the foundation of the temple of the Lord had not been laid” (Ezra 3:6).
But it took years to build the first and second temples. Is it possible that the third temple could exist already, in pieces? Some think that it does and could be assembled very quickly from already-completed components. Organizations such as the “Temple Mount Faithful” have cut large cornerstones and have prepared bowls, robes, and other items necessary for the service of the temple to begin. They have even attempted to take a cornerstone to the Temple Mount. But whether the entire third temple already exists in pieces across Israel is unknown to the world.
To begin the sacrifices, it would be necessary for the priesthood to be reestablished and sanctified. The process of sanctification is described in Numbers 19.
But God is most interested in a temple of a different kind. “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). The greatest of all temples is that which is spiritual, formed by the people of God’s true Church.
The Apostle Peter sheds more light on our Creator’s ultimate construction project:
Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, “Behold, I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious, and he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.” Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, “the stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone” and “a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.” They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed. But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy (1 Peter 2:4–10).
God has His building plans. Christ is the Chief Cornerstone, and the apostles and prophets are the foundation. And God’s begotten children are “living stones,” each having a place in the structure, “fitted together.”
But we must take care as to what kind of stones we are. Notice the Apostle Paul’s caution to the Church in Corinth:
For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 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. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire (1 Corinthians 3:9–15).
We are all being shaped and polished for our place in that ultimate temple as living stones—away from the final site in Jerusalem. What about us is being shaped? Every trial we have, every difficult choice, every act of love or mercy matters to us and to God. That is because what we do changes us. The choices we make affect our character. We need to have the will and character of our Father and Jesus Christ.
Your will is your power to choose. Children will comply willingly if asked to do something they want to do, like have a bowl of ice cream. But when they are told to do something they don’t want to do—say, clean a bedroom or pick up toys—they learn to subordinate their will to their parents’ will. But as they mature, children who’ve been trained well will naturally desire to do the right things that they once resisted.
Similarly, when Christians must obey God, we subordinate our will to His. But if we allow God to convert our will, we begin to choose as He does. Over time, our wills become more and more like His. Truly, God is building His holy, righteous character in each of us. Every time we exercise our wills as He would have us to—obeying His law of love—we are being changed, and His Holy Spirit works in us daily to transform us. Even our trials can benefit us: “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).
Think of a master builder working on a block of stone with his chisel and hammer—chipping away at one side and polishing the other. Sometimes this process may be uncomfortable for a “living stone,” but it is nevertheless productive!
In “quarries” all over the world, these living stones are being finished and readied for final transportation and assembly in Jerusalem. The stones of the first temple were shaped in quarries all around Judea, but the living stones for the ultimate temple of God are being shaped all around the world; the temple of God exists wherever God has called out His people. Christ will come and gather His elect—His resurrected and immortal brethren—from all the places He has been working with them, even to the utmost parts of the earth.
Christ is working with each of us—chipping a piece here, polishing a little there. He does this with every biblical truth we hear and every trial we endure. Think about what kind of stone you were last year, what kind of stone you are this year, and what kind of stone you will be next year. Will you be a precious stone and a pillar in that temple? Are you submitting to the will and skill of the Master Builder, Jesus Christ, who is Himself the Chief Cornerstone?