Completing the Temple
“The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the Lord of hosts” (Haggai 2:9).1
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Haggai is a book of two chapters, written in the second year of Darius Hystaspes, ruler of the Persian Empire, in 520 BC. The Israelites that returned to Jerusalem in the first year of Cyrus, eighteen years earlier, began building the Temple in the year after their return. However, opposed by the enemies of Israel, the work had languished.
Ezra 4:24 explains, “Then ceased the work of the house of God which is at Jerusalem. So it ceased unto the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.” Ezra 5:1,2 adds, “Then the prophets, Haggai the prophet, and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophesied unto the Jews that were in Judah and Jerusalem. … Then rose up Zerubbabel … and Jeshua … and began to build the house of God which is at Jerusalem: and with them were the prophets of God helping them.”2
(1) This rendering indicates that the glory of the second Temple would ultimately exceed the glory of the first Temple. Yet, the second temple, as constructed by Zerubbabel, did not match the edifice built by Solomon (Haggai 2:3). The spiritual temple will certainly surpass the glory of Solomon’s Temple. But if this text means, as it seems to say, that “this” house, the second temple, will surpass the glory of the first temple, then perhaps this was fulfilled by Herod’s reconstruction of the second Temple.
(2) Though the Book of Ezra records this information, keep in mind that Ezra himself did not go to Jerusalem until 62 years after this. The Book of Ezra records 80 years of history that preceded the actual journey of Ezra to Jerusalem. Zerubbabel the governor, Jeshua the priest, Haggai and Zechariah the prophets, were contemporaries, but Ezra (a priest) and Nehemiah (a governor) both came decades later.
The Book of Haggai records that prophet’s encouragement to the Israelites to complete the Temple. The Temple at Israel typified the Church. “Ye are the temple of the living God” (2 Corinthians 6:16). “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house” (1 Peter 2:5). Thus the exhortations of Haggai about building the literal Temple apply to calling the Church, the spiritual Temple, during the Gospel Age.
Daniel chapter 10 speaks of Daniel’s concern for a matter so significant that he sought God in prayer for three weeks, while mourning and fasting. “In those days I Daniel was mourning three full weeks. I ate no pleasant bread, neither came flesh nor wine in my mouth, neither did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled” (Daniel 10:2,3).
Daniel does not overtly explain the burden of his concern. However, when we understand what was transpiring at the time, it seems apparent that his concern was for the temple work in Jerusalem that had come to a halt. Cyrus allowed the Israelites to return in the first year of his reign (2 Chronicles 36:23).
The returned Israelites laid the foundation for the temple the next year. Their work was opposed and ultimately the work ceased. The news of this would have reached Daniel later that year, so that at the opening of year three of Cyrus, the burden would be deeply on his mind Daniel was mourning for the temple work.
Ezra 6:15 records that the Temple was finally completed in the last month of the sixth year of Darius Hystaspes, king of Persia. This took place in the spring of 515 BC, 21 years after Daniel’s earnest prayers of 21 days. Apparently, the delay of 21 years in completing the temple was indicated in the 21 days during which Daniel waited for an answer to his prayer.
There is a grander meaning in this for us in the Gospel Age. The foundation for the Church class was laid by Jesus and his disciples at the beginning of the age. Thereafter, serious opposition came and the work languished. Jewish leaders tried to stop the work (Galatians 4:29). Then, Pagan Rome threatened to extinguish the budding Christian community (Revelation 12:3,4). When this threat was over, earthly attractions diverted church leaders away from spiritual purpose, and Papacy rose to political influence and opposed the work of the Spirit.
In all, portions of 21 centuries will have passed before the work of building the spiritual temple is complete, perhaps represented by the 21 day delay to Daniel’s prayer, and the 21 year delay in completing the literal temple.
Repeated Date Markers
Daniel’s prayer was answered by Gabriel, who appeared on the 24th day of Nisan (Daniel 10:4). This means that Daniel’s prayer beginning 21 days earlier began on the 3rd day of Nisan. It was the third day of the third year of Cyrus, and Daniel prayed for three weeks. This repetition of the number three is appropriate for a Gospel Age picture,3 for three is a number representing redemption, and the Gospel Age is the first of two ages of Redemption.
(3) Thus, Jesus was three days in the tomb, his price was 30 pieces of silver, he was anointed for his death by 300 pence of ointment, and 3000 persons were redeemed at Pentecost. The narrative about Samson, which is a Gospel Age picture, involves the same sequence of numbers — a riddle of three days, the prize of 30 changes of garments, 300 foxes, and 3000 men of Judah at the rock Etam.
The 21 days are twice termed “three weeks” in Daniel 10:2,3. In other words, there are three sets of seven days — or, put another way, there are seven sets of three. Thus the period can represent the seven stages of the Church. Each set of three represents the redeemed of that stage.
That Gabriel’s visit came on the 24th day of the month also connects the episode in Daniel to the writings of Haggai about completing the temple. Haggai 1:14,15 says that it was also day 24 (of the sixth month in this case) that God “stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel …and the spirit of Joshua … and the spirit of all the remnant of the people: and they came and did work in the house of the LORD of hosts, their God.”
The same day number is used again in Haggai 2:10. “In the four and twentieth day of the ninth month” the word of God came through Haggai to affirm to the people that “from this day and upward, from the four and twentieth day of the ninth month,” when the people set to the work again, God would bless them and prosper their work.
The same day number is referred to one more time in Haggai (Haggai 2:20-23). It was a message to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, that God would “shake the heavens and the earth; and … overthrow the throne of kingdoms, and … destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the heathen; and … take … Zerubbabel, my servant … and make thee as a signet.” Zerubbabel represents our Lord Jesus. This prophecy refers to the establishment of the Kingdom of Christ and the demise of the kingdoms of this world, at the time the Church is completed.
The 24th day of the month is called out again in the prophecy of Haggai’s younger contemporary, Zechariah. “Upon the 24th day of the eleventh month … came the word of the LORD unto Zechariah” (Zechariah 1:7).
The message of Zechariah is that Jerusalem is to be restored, and God “will be unto her a wall of fire round about, and will be the glory in the midst of her” (Zechariah 2:2,5). This is thematically related, because Jerusalem is a symbol of Heavenly Jerusalem, which represents the Church complete in glory (Revelation 21:2).
Additionally, Zechariah’s prophecies, given to natural Israel, affirm that natural Israel will be relieved of their burdens, will finally be triumphant over their enemies, and will become the nucleus of God’s kingdom on earth (Zechariah 14:3-8).
Thus, in the prophecies of Haggai and his contemporary Zechariah, we have three works prophesied that intertwine and come to pass at the end of the Harvest — the completion of the Church, the Kingdom vested in the hands of Jesus, and the redemption of Israel from her enemies. The 24th day of the month is identified in each case, as it is the number which represents the end of the “21 days” of waiting — the end of the Gospel Age.
The Glory of the Latter House
The meaning of Haggai 2:7-9 is clearer in the Rotherham translation than in the common version. “I will shake all the nations, And the delight of all the nations shall come in, And I will fill this house with glory, Saith Yahweh of hosts. Mine is the silver and Mine the gold …Greater shall be the last glory of this house than the first, Saith Yahweh of hosts” (Rotherham).
The “delight of all the nations,” that comes in to fill the house with glory, evidently refers to the gold and silver that God would provide for the glory of Zerubbabel’s edifice. In the grander picture, this gold and silver represent the spiritual classes, the Church and the Great Company, that will fill the spiritual Temple with glory far greater than mundane elements.
That is the glory we are looking for. We are nearing the end of the Harvest. The saints raised to life after the return of Christ have preceded us in adorning the spiritual temple with their glorious presence. When the remainder is complete, the Kingdom so long anticipated will operate to bless “all the families of the earth” (Genesis 28:14).
Categories: 2016 Issues, 2016-January/February